MEDIA HOME AND LIFESTYLE: Media Roundup - Lifestyle's upswingproves PR can always go home

Home and home-improvement outlets are defying economic trends with

continued growth and increased advertising. Their traditional editorial

boundaries have been softened by a more general lifestyle approach, and

customers are responding with enthusiasm. David Ward reports.



Whether it stems from an instinctive need toward nesting, a return to

the traditional values of hearth and home, or simply baby boomers

settling down and acquiring wealth, there's no doubt that consumer

interest in home and lifestyle is on the rise - and the media has taken

notice.



Traditional "shelter books" such as Better Homes and Garden,

Metropolitan Home, and Architectural Digest have been joined in the past

15 years by a host of newer publications such as Dwell, Simple Living,

and Lucky.



Much of the credit for this current boom can be traced to Martha

Stewart.



"She's the one that reinvented all this cozy, homey stuff," says Patti

Londre, president of The Londre Company. "She was the one that showed

every single angle." Now there are a host of television programs and an

entire network (HGTV) devoted to home and home style. Even MTV is in on

the act with its new Cribs series, which showcases the homes of music

stars.



Part of the consumer appeal of many of these media outlets is their

complete lack of controversy. In many ways, they provide a kind of

escapist entertainment similar to sitcoms and movies. "They're very easy

on the eyes," notes Londre, who represents Wedgwood, the famed maker of

china and other fine ceramics. "If you want to feel good or you need

inspiration, you go to these magazines."



Eric Yaverbaum, president of Jericho Communications, which represents

IKEA, says that unlike most media outlets, home/lifestyle writing often

takes a back seat to visuals. "This and the fashion industry are very

picture-driven," he says. And like the fashion industry, many of these

outlets promise that if you follow their advice, you'll never commit an

interior-design faux pas. "The reporters either have good taste or

they're wannabes, but any way you shake it, they fashion themselves as

arbiters of taste."



With many consumers actually ripping the pictures out of these magazines

to take with them when they go shopping, Londre notes that the market to

get products featured in these home interior pictorials is very

competitive.



"It helps when you come to them with a known brand," she says.



Clear editorial mission



Matt Messinger, senior account supervisor with The MWW Group, says the

good thing about many of these outlets is that they have a very defined

editorial mission and readership. But occasionally, he says, the

logistics of reaching out to publications are complicated by their

limited staff.



"A lot of times, you're dealing with freelancers. More and more, these

lifestyle reporters are finding trends on their own, researching them

and pitching them to publications."



That applies to newspapers as well, many of which have established

dedicated weekly sections focusing on lifestyle and home improvements.

"Again, you're dealing with a lot of freelancers and syndicated

columnists, so a New Jersey paper may have a story from the Los Angeles

Times," he says.



Bill Daddi, EVP with Lippe Taylor, which represents integrated retailers

such as The White Barn Candle Company, says many of these outlets have

long leads, which necessitates pitching them three to six months in

advance.



Daddi also notes that many of them have shifted away from aspirational

features on dream or fantasy homes to a more practical approach. "They

want to have products that their readers can actually go out and buy,"

he says. "They don't want to frustrate people."



If there has been a criticism of these "shelter books" in the past, it's

that they often failed to separate editorial decisions from

advertising.



"At one time, Architectural Digest had a point of only mentioning

advertisers," says Yaver-baum, who quickly adds that the vast majority

of lifestyle publications now make an effort to keep editorial separate

from advertising.



Among the most influential journalists covering interiors/lifestyle are

Margaret Russell, editor-in-chief of Elle Decor, Kelly Reardon-Tagore,

home editor for Real Simple, Nicole Sforza, articles editor for Home,

and Midwest Living editor Deb Wiley. And on television they include

Oprah producer Jenna Kostelnick, The View's coordinating producer

Patrick Ignozzi, and HGTV host Pat Simpson.



The on-air options



In addition to networks such as HGTV and the Style Network, PR people

point to the morning network programs and daytime fare such as the The

View, Rosie, and most notably Oprah, as prime outlets for home products

and furnishings. "We had a whole product segment on Oprah," says

Jericho's Yaverbaum. "We worked on that segment for four or five months,

but of course, it was worth it."



Yaverbaum says IKEA regularly accommodates lifestyle journalists, and

has an annual press trip to Sweden to show them the company's roots and

corporate headquarters, as well as new products before anyone else has

seen them.



Jericho also tries to place IKEA in the middle of trend stories, such as

a recent rise in the popularity of inflatable furniture. "We furnished a

golf course in California with air furniture that still generates

articles today," says Yaverbaum, "and that was two years ago."



The other major beneficiary of home magazines has been the

home-improvement industry. Thanks again to icons such as Martha Stewart

and Bob Villa (formerly of This Old House), the traditional lines

between male-centric home-improvement media outlets and shelter books

has been blurring. Milwaukee-based Cramer-Krasselt, which represents

Briggs & Stratton and Dremel, points out that a recent survey found 44%

of people rank home-improvement projects as their number-one leisure

activity. Cramer recently completed an editorial tour on behalf of

Briggs & Stratton, meeting with 23 editors from 19 magazines, including

traditional women's publications such as Good Housekeeping, Country

Living, Home, Woman's Day, and Family Circle.



Cramer PR vice president Bobby Holcombe says that while many Briggs &

Stratton products are focused on outside the home (such as gardening),

many home magazines are now including such topics in their lifestyle

coverage.



"It's been kind of fun for us to see the growth of these magazines," he

says. "There's this whole wider segment of an audience that now fits

right in line with what we do."



PR execs say the best way to reach these publications is by building

relationships with key editorial members, and then being very responsive

to requests for art and products for inclusion in coverage.



A sure sign of the strength of the category is that even in this

depressed advertising environment, home and home-improvement coverage

continues to grow. "Advertising in this category is up," says Yaverbaum.

"The New York Times recently introduced a special style and

entertainment insert that they do twice a year now to pick up some of

those overflow ad dollars. So there are more places for us to go

now."



WHERE TO GO



Home titles: Home; InStyle; Better Homes and Gardens; Good Housekeeping;

Elle Decor; House Beautiful; Real Simple; Martha Stewart Living; Dwell;

Nest; Metropolis; Architectural Digest; Interior Design; Family Circle;

Women's Day; Metropolitan Home; Country Home; Country Living; Midwest

Living; Homestyle; Electronic House



Home improvement titles: This Old House; The Family Handyman; Handy



Trade titles: HFN; Furniture Style; Furniture Today; Furniture World;

InFurniture; Home Accents Today; Home Textiles Today



TV & Radio: HGTV; Oxygen Network; Style Network; Discovery Channel; E!;

MTV; Martha Stewart Living (syndicated); Better Homes and Gardens

(syndicated); This Old House; Home Again; Hometime



Internet: DIYOnline.com; MSNBC.



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