NEW YORK — In a move that surprised the industry, Hearst Magazines said Monday that Marian McEvoy will step down as editor in chief of House Beautiful, the 106-year-old shelter magazine, after two years in the post.
She will be replaced by Mark Mayfield, editor in chief of Meredith Corp.’s Traditional Home, effective July 15. Meredith couldn’t comment at press time Monday on Mayfield’s successor.
Prior to becoming editor in chief of Traditional Home, Mayfield was editor and vice president of Southern Accents. Earlier he was editor in chief of Art & Antiques magazine for two years.
McEvoy couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. A Hearst spokesman claimed she resigned to pursue other interests, but even he indicated McEvoy’s departure wasn’t voluntary and that there were other issues involved in the change in editors, which followed sharp drops in HB’s newsstand sales in recent months.
“House Beautiful recently seemed to be gaining traction in the marketplace,” he said. “However, management felt that we needed to broaden the focus of the magazine, broaden its appeal, and broaden its approach to home design. Marian did a good job in a very tough and competitive marketplace.”
McEvoy joined HB in July 2000 after nine years as editor in chief of Elle Decor, published by Hachette Filipacchi. During her tenure at HB, McEvoy redesigned the magazine, bringing more color, light and stylish people to its pages, as well as fresh typography and photographers like Oberto Gili and Eric Boman. The magazine has a rate base of 850,000. In an interview in February 2001, after her first redesigned issue came out, McEvoy told WWD, “My look is going to be very feminine. It’s friendly glamour. It’s not off-putting. I like a house that looks like effort has gone into it. I want joy, color and fun, and humor is an important part.”
Design experts liked what she was doing, but readers apparently were less enthusiastic. For the second half of 2001, the latest figures available, total circulation was up 1.4 percent; however newsstand sales dropped 15.3 percent, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Architectural Digest, House & Garden, Elle Decor and Traditional Home also experienced newsstand declines for that period, of 6.5 percent, 9.9 percent, 1.9 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, according to ABC.
While HB’s decline in ad pages wasn’t as steep as that of its competitors for the first seven months of this year, they still were off 2.9 percent in the period, according to Media Industry Newsletter. This followed a 16.6 percent decline in ad pages for 2001. Through July, HB trailed Architectural Digest in ad pages, but ran more than House & Garden and Elle Decor.
McEvoy took over House Beautiful from Louis Oliver Gropp, who was there nine years.
“I think she’s a fabulous editor,” said Wendy Goodman, a contributing editor at Elle Decor. “Maybe her plans for the magazine didn’t jive with their plans. House Beautiful is a mass book.”
Goodman thought the redesigned House Beautiful “was always fresh and had a very people-driven point of view. “The mass market is a hard one to figure out.”
Margaret Russell, editor in chief of Elle Decor, said Monday, “She made huge changes in the magazine. Marian is one of the most specific editors out there. She’s enormously talented and has a real strong editorial voice and a strong point of view which was different from the way House Beautiful was before. Newsstand for everyone has been a struggle for the past year.””