Clean, spacious offices are just what you’d expect at the 114-year-old Good Housekeeping: the orderly desks and lemon walls make the place seem too neat to be a magazine. At the same time, the title your mother may have read is trying hard to shed its ’earnest’ image. Jennifer Aniston was a surprising choice for the cover girl on a recent edition.
Clean, spacious offices are just what you’d expect at the
114-year-old Good Housekeeping: the orderly desks and lemon walls make
the place seem too neat to be a magazine. At the same time, the title
your mother may have read is trying hard to shed its ’earnest’ image.
Jennifer Aniston was a surprising choice for the cover girl on a recent
But as Good Housekeeping reaches out to the younger reader it suffers
from the same problem many women approaching middle age have: how to
retain grace and wisdom while keeping a young attitude.
In June, the title’s crusading editor, Ellen Levine, appointed executive
editor Susan Bolotin to act as a sounding board for her ideas and to
spearhead the changes. Bolotin is masterminding a soft redesign with the
help of a new art director. There will be a more news-driven
front-of-the-book section. Currently the title opens with a series of
profiles featuring personal-triumph stories.
Bolotin, whose previous titles include Life, Vogue, Self and The New
York Times, is focusing on ways to catch the eye of the reader as she
flips her way through magazines on store racks. ’The more entry points
there are in one page - whether that’s artwork, text, a pull-out quote
or a box - the more it will make the reader stop,’ she says.
And though consumer affairs and cooking will always be the mainstay, GH
could branch out to topics like the Internet. ’We are about to freshen
it up, to look at the headlines and say, ’Why don’t we sell this story
more?’ ’ says Bolotin. The results won’t be evident until the
Right now, the average Good Housekeeping subscriber is between ages 30
and 55, though newsstand buyers are younger, between 25 and 40. The
magazine is in fact growing its circulation as other women’s titles
fight to keep readers. Circulation for the first six months of this year
was over 4.6 million - up from 4.5 million last year - while readership
is estimated at 24 million.
Bolotin describes the typical Good Housekeeping reader as a woman who’s
’not earnest but interested in the serious stuff.’
Some might feel the title’s etiquette column is a little old-world, with
advice about when to write thank-you notes or what to say to your kids
about sleeping arrangements when they bring their partners home. However
Gemma Puglisi, a media VP at Edelman, feels the magazine adequately
crosses the generational divide: ’It has tried to evolve and involve
women of all ages. My nieces still pick it up and look at the profiles
and consumer news.’ Puglisi also says the variety in the magazine
enables her to pitch an array of clients.
Celebrities are one way of attracting a younger reader (as InStyle well
knows). Bolotin expects there will be something of a backlash against
the trend - yet at the same time she admits that the two biggest-selling
issues this year featured Aniston and Katie Couric.
’We are open to much younger covers,’ Bolotin says. ’But we are not
interested in so-and-so with their new movie out. We want to find a way
to get close to that person. We are not celebrity-driven.’ Readers would
be hard-pressed to find a single celebrity in the December issue.
Good Housekeeping will carry ads only from companies whose claims it can
substantiate. Products are given rigorous tests in a huge futuristic
laboratory, the Good Housekeeping Institute, located a floor above the
magazine; the test results are published and featured on Dateline
Despite the attempts to reach out to younger readers, it is clear where
Madison Avenue positions the title. The book is full of ads oriented to
older people - such as a menopause pill, Viagra and heartburn
Even in the December issue there are few luxury goods or fashion
advertisers in what is a holiday edition.
From a PR standpoint, the magazine rejects products that it feels are
out of the readers’ budget, but many pros seek the esteem of a Good
Housekeeping seal of approval. The seal is awarded only to advertisers
and only after their products have been tested. Maureen Lippe, founder
of beauty PR agency Lippe Taylor, says a positive review in Good
Housekeeping has a tremendous effect on sales.
As with most monthlies, the staff writes about Christmas at the end of
summer and brainstorm about Valentine’s Day at Thanksgiving.
Consequently they need pitches early. The March issue, which has just
gone to press, will focus on emotional health, while April will carry a
Bolotin claims the May edition will be all about ’hip’ housekeeping, if
there is such a thing.
Bolotin’s advice on what not to pitch: ’Nothing on guns or tobacco’ -
the magazine dropped tobacco advertising years before government health
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Editor in Chief: Ellen Levine
Executive editor: Susan Bolotin
Senior deputy editor (personal finance): Evelyn Renold
Senior editor (relationships, marriage, human interest, nutrition and
diet): Nancy Bilyeau
Editor at large (family matters, children, travel): Toni Hope
Fashion and beauty director: Dayna Spitz Special projects director
(Internet, e-commerce, new businesses): Richard Eisenberg
Articles editor (consumer news, social issues, politics, Institute
matters): Lisa Benenson
Beauty editor (beauty and fitness): Melissa Foss
The Better Way editor: Kirstin Godsey
Books editor: Phyllis Levy
Entertainment editor (celebrities, entertainment news): Kate Coyne
Features editor (features, profiles): Kathy Powers
Fiction editor: Lee Quarfort
Food director: Susan Westmoreland
Health editor (health, medicine, psychology): Susan Roy