Like the glorious homes featured in its colorful pages, HGTV Magazine exudes fresh style, comfort and inspiration. While trends might change, homeowners always want beautiful spaces they can achieve (and afford), and that focus on relatability and accessibility runs through each page of Hearst's HGTV Magazine, published in partnership with Discovery, Inc. With its 10th birthday approaching in October, that focus is driving the magazine's success in the red-hot home-improvement media landscape.
"We are really good at adapting to real life and what's happening in real people's homes," explained Sara Peterson, the magazine's editor-in-chief, who has been at the helm since the very first issue. "Keeping a pulse on that is what makes us special and makes it a little easier to adapt to any landscape change, whether in the industry or in the world."
Since its launch in 2011, HGTV Magazine has focused on modern style that readers can re-create. The magazine is playful and whimsical, with bright colors and bold fonts. The articles feature real homeowners and chronicle their decorating and renovation journeys. Even the editors share details on their own renovations and decorating. Peterson's back deck remodel was the subject of a July/August 2021 feature. She also chronicled her kitchen remodel in the magazine and through a series of Instagram posts.
"As a staff, we talk about when our basements flooded or how we painted something," she said. "We relate to what our readers are going through."
At a time when "home" has never been more important, HGTV Magazine is well-positioned to grow its market share. Americans are spending more time at home than ever, and millions are still working from there. Homeowners are upgrading their indoor and outdoor spaces and are willing to shell out for products and services. When they need ideas or practical information, including where to buy items, HGTV Magazine is there with tips and suggestions.
"We've always loved to help people make tweaks, changes and fun little updates to their homes, and that came in especially handy in the last year," Peterson said.
While some design magazines showcase luxury villas and wildly expensive décor, HGTV Magazine features homes you might find down the street. Editors keep an eye on current trends, like home offices or backyard projects, and offer practical solutions, including mini-makeovers on a budget. Readers enjoy the "The High/Low List," with expensive items paired alongside affordable alternatives, as well as the "How Bad Is It?" column, in which editors interview home and lifestyle experts, including the HGTV talent, to answer burning questions about home, cleaning and cooking. Real ideas for real people.
That approachability is key to HGTV Magazine's success, said Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President and Publishing Director for HGTV Magazine, Food Network Magazine and several other Hearst titles. "The magazine is so beautiful and so current and modern and shoppable; it is inspiring," she said. "There are so many beautiful magazines out there, but not many live in the world where you can afford the things and really do things."
Fresh research backs up Wellington's claims. In a survey with MarketCast, 87% of HGTV Magazine readers said they loved that the magazine features real people and their stories, while 84% said the magazine offers actionable ideas at reasonable prices.
As it approaches its 10th birthday, HGTV Magazine is a rare success in a challenged print magazine industry. In recent years, many magazines have seen circulation and ad pages dwindle, and a number have folded. In contrast, HGTV Magazine is growing both its readership and its advertising revenue.
While details about the October issue are still under wraps, Wellington said advertiser demand is red-hot, with sales up 38% over the October 2020 issue. The birthday edition will feature several special advertising units, including an accordion-style high-impact cover unit. "This issue is going to be an absolutely spectacular experience for everybody," Wellington said.
One of HGTV Magazine's strengths is its innovative advertising features. The magazine specializes in custom-branded content that complements the editorial pages.
When done right, Peterson said these branded-content experiences create a fun and informative experience for readers, and it helps a brand stand out. For example, when Peterson's team partnered with Behr Paint, the HGTV Magazine marketing team found a way to include Behr peel-and-stick color samples from Behr's latest color palette in the magazine, alongside Behr brand ads. The samples let readers test the colors out on their own walls. Other campaigns have featured four-page horizontal photos, pop-ups and even windows like on an Advent calendar.
"It's like a fun, creative puzzle," she explained. "How can we take a brand's message and integrate it so it looks and feels like the magazine content? Everything is driven by the reader experience. With these units and the pages, it's got to be fun and on brand if it's in the magazine at all," she added.
This editorial approach is working well: According to the MarketCast research, 82% of HGTV Magazine's readers purchased a home-improvement product after reading the magazine, including upgrading their outdoor space, purchasing paint, buying home décor or shopping for organizational products.
HGTV Magazine boasts another secret weapon: The HGTV television network. As one of TV's top-rated cable networks, HGTV is a powerful editorial and ad sales partner. The network often features magazine content on its website and social media, driving awareness for the magazine. Wellington said advertisers are attracted to packages that bundle the TV, digital and print products.
"Who else has a kind of reach with millions and millions of people, that's perfect for everyone in the family, and that's happy and positive?" Wellington asked.
As the 10th birthday approaches, HGTV Magazine is drawing up plans for its next decade, intent on ensuring that great design remains in demand.
"I was looking at a living room from 2003, and I would still buy that sofa," Peterson said. "I hope we can keep sharing great style from then, now and 10 years from now."
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