Publishers look to women's magazines for stability

Magazines published by Meredith Corporation, a media and marketing company based in Des Moines, Iowa. Time Warner and Meredith are in talks to create a new publishing company that would appeal mostly to women.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified one of the magazine titles published by Meredith. It’s ‘Parents’ magazine. The text has been corrected.

The big talk in the publishing world today involves two names. The first you probably know: Time Warner. The second may be less familiar: Meredith.

If the publishing world is high school, you might think of Time as starting quarterback and debate team captain, with prestige titles like Fortune and Sports Illustrated. Meredith is more like president of the home economics club. Its mainstays are women's lifestyle titles like Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.

Soon, the two might start going steady. Time has decided it wants to offload many of its titles with the help of Meredith.

Meredith is based in Des Moines, Iowa, and calls itself a media and marketing company, catering to women. Ladies Home Journal, Parents and Midwest Living round out its catalog. Amy Colton is a marketing expert at Current Marketing. She says Meredith's tone is more about useful advice than high fashion.

"The practical side of things has done really well, especially in this economy," Colton says.

Plus, she says, moms love magazines. Colton's surveys show the majority of mothers read one to three magazines regularly, in old-fashioned, printed form.

"They like to kick back on the couch, soak in the bathtub. It's just their way of escaping, and holding a magazine and enjoying it," she says.

Rick Edmonds follows media business at the Poynter Institute, and says Meredith is profitable. It's not a hot stock or anything, but considering the state of the publishing sector overall, it's done well.

"Certainly any newspaper would be clicking its heels if it had done that well," he says.

Time and Meredith could create a new publishing company to appeal mostly to women. By spinning off titles, Time will end its reign as biggest magazine publisher in the U.S. But it will reportedly hold on to a few of its big name titles: Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated. Those happen to have mostly male readers.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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