Form follows function at Good Housekeeping: A Q and A with Publisher Pat Haegele

May 19, 2009

First it was the content, now it is the format… talk about common sense! Few in our industry actually still utilize common sense as a strategy to achieve what is needed in today’s magazine world, and Good Housekeeping is one of those few. The first step came in April 2007 when the content of the magazine was revamped and now the magazine plans to revamp the format (physical size) of the magazine: form following function. Although the official changes will not take place until next year, the magazine continues to test the new size and cover price in limited areas of the United States. The examples above show the June issue of GH in both sizes and cover prices.
Pat Haegele 3-2004 CI asked Pat Haegele, the first woman publisher in the history of the 124 year-old Good Housekeeping, few questions regarding the changes at the magazine.

Q. In a market where everyone else is trimming the size of their publications, you are increasing the size, why and why now?

A. We see this as a huge opportunity to make a long-term investment in our brand. Good Housekeeping’s mission has always been to provide the best service in the form of advice and tips for saving time and hassle, and our 25 million readers clearly trust our content and our voice. We’re always looking for new ways to add value, and by increasing our size, we are able to provide readers with a more pleasurable aesthetic – what our editor in chief Rosemary Ellis calls “a visual vacation” – and make Good Housekeeping that much more satisfying. Our newsstand tests proved that readers clearly saw the increased value and were willing to pay for it.

Q. I have noticed that you are reducing the circulation and raising the cover price. Are you going to increase the sub prices as well?

A. We’ve found that once people are introduced to the magazine, they become loyal, long-term subscribers. Right now, we are looking closely at our sub file, and eliminating those sources that renew at very low rates. The next step will be increasing the longer-term subscription prices.

Q. With such a mass audience GH reaches, what are some of the innovative ways you are doing to keep that audience, increase the audience and maximize the brand?

A. We engage our current readers and attract new ones by spotlighting the incredible work we do at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, which is at the heart of the unique value proposition our readers connect with so deeply. For 100 years, the Good Housekeeping Seal has been a hallmark of the magazine’s promise of quality. Every product that has earned the Seal has been evaluated by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, our state-of-the-art laboratory, staffed with engineers, scientists, chemists and nutritionists who are dedicated to protecting consumers by testing products for safety and efficacy. Products with the Seal carry a limited warranty: if the product proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the item or refund the consumer. The same holds true for every product advertised in the magazine: if it does not clear the Institute, the ad does not run. And if a product currently advertising doesn’t perform as it claims, Good Housekeeping will replace it or refund the consumer within two years of purchase. There is no other magazine that offers this kind of assurance.

This year, to celebrate the Seal’s 100th birthday, we opened the Research Institute for public tours so consumers can see first-hand all of the careful work we do. We started by offering one monthly tour, but the response was so great that we quickly doubled that, giving two tours a month.

Another initiative is the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, an environmental extension to the existing Seal. At a time when there is no universal definition of “green,” the Green Good Housekeeping Seal will evaluate products based on their measurable environmental impact and offer consumers guidance about buying truly green products. It is now in beta testing and we plan to roll out the first Green Good Housekeeping Seal holders later this year. With so many products claiming to be green, consumers are confused by, and even mistrustful of, many product promises, and we feel a responsibility to help them make the wisest and healthiest choices. Of course, a product that earns the Green Good Housekeeping Seal must have to first pass the Institute’s evaluations and earn the original Seal.

Q. What is the future of print and where do you see GH five years from now?

A. Magazines provide a sensory experience that no other medium can, which accounts for the passion readers have for their favorite titles: it’s why we’re investing in that sensory experience to grow our brand following. Now more than ever, magazines are truly brands, and it is essential to take a 360° approach. For Good Housekeeping, this means a vibrant Web site, filled with information and how-to on everything: health, beauty, recipes, parenting and more, our one-hour television specials that are attracting more viewers than ever before and partnerships that resonate with our readers. Good Housekeeping will always be the trusted and reliable resource for consumers and the leader in consumer advocacy, with the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, the Seal and now the Green Good Housekeeping Seal. (Picture to the right of the current size of GH on top of the new size).

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