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