Cover Story: Why Are Some Magazines Thriving?
Expansion into digital products has mainly come in relation to the craft and needlework publications, where the company is experimenting with downloadable instructional materials and patterns. Online social networking also has proven a natural extension of the type of enthusiast community spirit cultivated by Hoffman's magazines and events. The company is testing digital editions for those who prefer online magazines, though it expects to keep the primary focus on its print products for the time being.
"There is something still wonderful about sitting down with the beautiful pages of a magazine and just thumbing through it leisurely," Hoffman says. "We are trying, obviously, to be current, but traditional magazine publishing is where the bulk of our audiences are. They're tired of computers; they work at them all day. There's nothing restful about cranking one up when you get home."
Hoffman says staying in touch with trends and customer desires requires a certain approach to running the business, epitomized by an open office environment that encourages individual initiative and the trickling up of ideas from editors.
It also requires staying focused. "We've had a lot of opportunities to get outside of our box, but when we stay in that box with what we do best, that's where our strength is," Hoffman says. "With all the financial ups and downs we're seeing in the marketplace right now, we are very conservative in that regard. We build solid rather than just build."
This conservative approach feeds into Hoffman's view of the need to be as smart as one is aggressive when it comes to growth. When Cooking With Paula Deen was launched in 2005, an unexpected sales surge required the first issue to be printed three times. The company was able to quickly reassess priorities and resources to ensure there was no loss of momentum. "Because of the size of our company," Hoffman says, "we can be very nimble.