Corner Office: Maria Rodale on Thriving in Times of Change
Can you tell a bit of the backstory for the launch of Rodale's Organic Life?
We've been publishing Organic Gardening since 1942. We tested the waters many years ago with a lifestyle magazine called Organic Style. It did well but not well enough to continue. Everybody said that was it was ahead of its time. In the meantime Organic Gardening really struggled with finding an advertising base that would support it. Readers actually loved it. It's was one of our top reader engagement magazines, but it wasn't enough to support it financially. At the same time we were seeing how the interest in organic is actually growing exponentially, but it's not just about gardening, it's about living your whole life.
I was reluctant to change the name because of my experience with Organic Style. Scott Schulman, our new president, said "No, we really should make this a lifestyle magazine and broaden the scope." It just all came together so wonderfully. We were able to bring on Jim Oseland, who had been the editor-in-chief of Saveur and also the Organic Style food editor when that was here. So we've got the world's best food team. We've got the world's best garden team. We're adding home, which is a new area for us. We're excited about that. And wellness and well-being, which are core to who Rodale is. It's really exciting. It's a really visually beautiful magazine. We think this time the time is right.
After the recession hit, what changes needed to be implemented immediately at Rodale?
The first was to reduce any unnecessary activities in the company. That's just responsible management. The second is the term we've used here, shift, which is shifting resources from the traditional part of the business to the newer part of the business. It's not just shifting people or dollars -- it's shifting attention and mindshare. Then the third thing is fostering a collaborative, integrated environment, because when you pull open a curtain on how a business operates, that's one of the secrets to digital success.
Denis Wilson was previously content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzed and reported on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aimed to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.