Hearst is nodding to a tried and true model in order to amp up its women’s content.
The magazine publisher has elevated Good Housekeeping editor in chief Jane Francisco to head its newly formed “Lifestyle Group,” which is comprised of Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Woman’s Day. The promotion formalizes what is already in place on the business side with Good Housekeeping’s Patricia Haegele as publishing director of the group.
The model mimics that of the Design Group, which is overseen by Newell Turner, and includes a handful of Hearst’s shelter titles. The formation of that group in 2012 — a time when shelter titles were feeling pressure — helped Hearst cut costs and capitalize on its editorial and advertising offering.
Under the new lifestyle group, Francisco will oversee Meredith Rollins, Redbook editor in chief, and Woman’s Day editor in chief Susan Spencer. Francisco told WWD that her “mission” is to work with the current teams and create her own group that will “deliver content that has a distinct voice.”
“I think those other brands have a distinct personality that has evolved,” Francisco said of Redbook and Woman’s Day. “When Elle Décor, Veranda and House Beautiful [the design group] were put together, they had one marketing team…they had very specific direction from each of brands. Hearst was able to be more efficient and reduce overlap and create more unique content for each of the three brands.
“It’s part of the idea here,” she said, turning to the lifestyle group. “As technology changes, can we create more content with more breadth?”
Francisco’s team will take shape in mid-January. When asked whether the new group would entail a consolidation of teams — which is media speak for layoffs — the editor was hesitant to comment on that, or broader company cuts. Insiders told WWD that in recent weeks, Hearst has been quietly going through its own cycle of small job cuts. Instead, Francisco focused on the importance of punching up the content of the lifestyle group.
“Women today are perhaps busier than they ever have been,” she said, explaining that the team is constantly trying to deliver fashion, beauty, health, home decor and food content to “new audiences” across print, digital, social and events.
This is an important endeavor, as it has been no secret that the magazine market targeting Generation X and Baby Boomer women has been challenged (and somewhat stale). Case in point, Meredith Corp. shuttered the monthly edition of Ladies’ Home Journal in 2014 and earlier this year closed its sister glossy More Magazine.
Francisco has seen success through partnerships and tinkering with her title’s content to include home, wellness and the “slow living movement” rather than relying solely on traditional story lines about keeping a home.
The editor rattled off some positive initiatives at her own title, including the Good Housekeeping Women Awards with Shonda Rimes, Good Morning America and Awesomeness TV’s digital arm AwestruckTV, as well as its partnership with RetailMeNot and Keep.com. That deal broadened the Good Housekeeping Institute’s work to include digital company RetailMeNot, and in turn, its authority when it awards its Seal of Approval. Francisco also made credits shoppable in the magazine and she helped develop the deal for the title with Wal-Mart for a sponsored tech-centric multiplatform campaign. Called “The Connected Home,” the partnership provides content related to gadgets for the home, which can be purchased at Wal-Mart.
According to Good Housekeeping, the brand extensions have helped it grow advertising pages 2 percent in 2016 over last year. A rep said the expansion was driven by a bump in ad sales from beauty (up 5 percent), food companies (up 15 percent) and health (up 6 percent).
In terms of audience, Hearst cited MRI’s spring 2016 data that showed that Good Housekeeping’s 18- to 34-year-old, aka Millennial, demographic is the fastest growing among all women’s magazines, up more than 30 percent. That alone has pushed Francisco into the spotlight at Hearst, which looks to maintain its core readership while attracting the next generation.