1. In a move heralded by its Publisher instead of its Editor, Ladies Home Journal has announced that beginning with the March issue, it will use readers to write the majority of its articles. Supposedly this approach is being initiated after research showed that readers wanted more of their voices reflected in the content and to feel as if they belonged to a community.
2. While all this sounds good, I wonder if this isn't just an innovative way for Meredith to reduce headcount and overall editorial costs? Readers buy a magazine because Editors produce original content that either entertains or provides information that is relevant to their readers' lives. And strong magazines such as Cosmo, The New Yorker, Esquire and O the Oprah Magazine already make readers feel they are part of a community.
3. Rather than empower its readers with this move, Ladies' Home Journal seems to be saying it can no longer figure out what their readers want so maybe a few of their more articulate readers can? As Ellen Levine, Hearst's Editorial Director said recently in the NY Times: "Inviting your readers in and learning from them is what keeps you relevant." And it takes a strong editor and editorial team to interpret any research and then create the articles that make a magazine more relevant. Turning the majority of the editorial over to readers is more a marketing gimmick than a real editorial benefit. I find it quite interesting that the editor of Ladies' Home Journal was not a part of the article about this that appeared in the NY Times.
4. If Meredith is conducting ongoing reader research for Ladies' Home Journal it should know what their readers want to see more of, less of, etc. It's not rocket science to conduct an inexpensive on-line editorial survey. And the costs can be well below $5,000 a survey. A magazine only has influence and credibility if their editors do. While women may ask their friends and relatives for advice they do not pay them to do so. A woman subscribes to a woman's service magazine because she is looking for answers that go beyond her normal outreach resources.
5. Why couldn't Ladies' Home Journal utilize its Web site to enable women to have discussion groups on all the topics they might be interested in? Wouldn't that empower their readers? Behind every great magazine stands a great Editor. Helen Gurly Brown at Cosmo to Clay Felker at New York Magazine knew instinctly what their readers needed and wanted.
6. Sad to say, this new approach of reader generated content will make Ladies Home Journal less relevant. It is one thing to provide a recipe tip it is quite another skill to write a lifestyle article that's ahead of its time and tips readers off of what's to come next.
7. The real editorial challenge for Ladies Home Journal is in interpreting whatever reader feedback they obtain to create more relevant "must read" issues. Too many of the women's service magazines seem to endlessly repeat the same cover lines such as "Walk off belly fat", "Blast off bell fat", "Lose a dress size by Spring", etc.
8. Today more and more women are reading Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New Yorker, New York, etc. and other thought provoking publications than ever before. The challenge for Ladies' Home Journal is to be ahead of the curve of what will be relevant to women versus tracking what's already taken place. With an average paid circulation of 3.2 million, the 128 year old Ladies Home Journal may have a tough time finding real readers who can produce original content that attracts readership and creates high interest in the brand.
9. One might compare Ladies' Home Journal having their readers produce the majority of its articles to an asylum turning over its authority to the inmates. Editorial costs will be reduced and so will reader interest.
Steve's most recent book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189 lessons learned and insider tips from Gayle King, Cathie Black, Chuck Townsend and 28 others; Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is blacker-reinventions.com and e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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