Cover Story: Why Are Some Magazines Thriving?
The Cooking With Paula Deen story, in fact, reflects much about why the company has been successful. Launched when chef and Savannah restaurateur Deen was an up-and-coming star on the Food Network, the magazine resonated with the publisher's core demographic of southern women and quickly carved out its own niche in the profitable world of lifestyle/cooking titles. The timing could not have been better; renewed interest in home cooking combined with the ongoing appeal of magazines tied to a personality (a la Martha Stewart) proved to be one of the winningest formulas of the decade.
"[Cooking With] Paula Deen and [Every Day With] Rachael Ray came out two weeks apart," recalls Hoffman. "That was the weirdest thing I've even seen because we thought we had a big surprise, and they thought they did. Of course, both of them are doing extremely well."
For Hoffman Media, good timing always has been combined with a keen sense of unmet demand. (When it launched, Just Cross Stitch "was the only one of its kind, and it grew like crazy," Hoffman says.) The company's early success in stitching—and an exclusive contract with the Walt Disney Company to do a "Disney in Stitches" program at theme parks—caught the attention of PJS Publications, then a division of Veronis Suhler, which bought Hoffman Media in 1993. Being part of a massive corporation meant a shift in strategy, and when plans were afoot to consolidate all of the parent company's stitching and quilting books in Denver, Hoffman decided, in 1998, to buy her properties back.
"My boys were seniors in high school, and I wasn't moving to Denver," she says. "That wasn't even in the cards."
Back in control of its destiny, Hoffman Media returned to what it did best—focusing on a loyal, regional demographic. The company decided to branch out into lifestyle magazines with the launch of Southern Lady. "We kept asking ourselves, as publishers, why doesn't someone write about the South—the places, restaurants, boutiques, things that women love—because the magazines that were then being published were centered around New England, New York and California," she says. "When we launched Southern Lady, that was our entre into lifestyle, entertaining and cooking, and from there, we have added magazines when it was the appropriate time in the appropriate category."