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R.I.P. Ladies' Home Journal Subscriptions
By: Jennifer Graber
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A magazine with a 131-year-old history is calling it quits — sort of. Ladies’ Home Journal, of the Meredith Corporation, is closing up shop with its monthly subscriptions. The magazine was first published in 1883 and has since been considered an “influential” magazine in the area of women’s lifestyle issues and concerns — such as raising children, cooking, health, relationships, and more. Ladies’ Home Journal was a part of a broader collection of lifestyle magazines, and remained a strong contender with a circulation of 3.2 million. But all of that simply was not enough to sustain the magazine. Despite being a strong brand Ladies’ Home Journal faced a decline in paid circulation from previous years, and saw a decrease in advertising revenue.
The decline ultimately led the Meredith Corporation to make the decision to shutter monthly publication. The July 2014 edition will be the last issue of Ladies’ Home Journal to be sent out to subscribers. From thenceforth the magazine will only be available quarterly and exclusively on newsstands. The quarterly production is a significant drop from its current number of 10 issues distributed annually. The Meredith Corporation plans to have Ladies’ Home Journal continue to maintain an active online presence via its website.
Another casualty of the Ladies’ Home Journal decline will be its entire editorial staff. The magazine’s New York City office will be shut down and all 35 staff members will be let go. The quarterly issues of Ladies’ Home Journal will be produced in Des Moines. This does not make for a good day for those staff members. It is rather curious that none of the staff members will be transferred to the Des Moines area to continue to handle content for the quarterly publications. This begs the question of who will be taking over said responsibilities — most likely an already overwhelmed editorial staff member. But that is a whole different issue.
What happened? Why does a seemingly strong, reputable brand face challenging moments like these — moments that ultimately lead to its demise? Answers for Ladies’ Home Journal perhaps can be found in its focus and target audience. The stalwart publication covers a plethora of issues critical to women and does not place a majority focus on any one particular thing. Consumers, and advertisers, apparently prefer magazines with a specific, almost singular topic. This, honestly, seems a bit strange, considering the "I’m so busy I can’t chase down information" mentality many of us have. One would think a one-stop publication would be just the ticket for our busy lives.
Additionally, the brand’s focus, whether intentional or not, is on the older audience versus the new crop of readership. It is not necessarily a bad thing to have a succinct focus on an older generation. In fact, it is recommended to have a very clear picture of who your target audience is and/or should be. However, it unfortunately seems like Ladies’ Home Journal may have been focusing on an awkward age group — meaning an age group that falls into the cracks. An age group that is not quite of the younger era but one that isn’t fully focused on the mature woman either. Due to this, it would seem as if Ladies’ Home Journal faced a mountain of competition from publications that singularly served young women and mature women.  
These factors added up to a perfect storm. And that storm led to advertisers jumping ship to other printed publications. As with all marketing and brands, everything is tied together, and if one coordinate is even the slightest bit off, it can drift the entire operation off-course.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Were there other issues you felt led to the downfall of Ladies’ Home Journal subscriptions? And do you feel anything could have been done to save the publication?


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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