Passionate consumer helps Martha Stewart Living comeback

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NEW YORK - Circulation executives attending the Direct Marketing Association's annual Circulation Day yesterday heard Lauren Stanich, president of publishing for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, talk about her experiences in the publishing industry.

Ms. Stanich, who was the luncheon keynote speaker, recounted how Martha Stewart Living grew from a series of cookbooks into a multi-million-dollar media brand.

"We had a great transition to the magazine industry, because there was no consumer competition, yet there was a demand," she said.

Martha Stewart Living launched with a circulation rate base of 250,000, with 25 ads per issue. The insert card response was in the double digits and the sell-through rate on newsstands was 70 percent.

"Three things propelled us," Ms. Stanich said. "It was our product, Martha's personality and our unique business model."

The magazine was also able to grow due to Martha Stewart's television presence.

"We pioneered a new ad model of selling print and TV together," Ms. Stanich said. "The starting subscription was $28 per year and we didn't offer any discounts due to our unique genre."

The title receives more than 1 million e-mails and letters per year from readers.

"When Martha had her legal troubles we hit a roadblock," Ms. Stanich said. "We lost half of our advertisers over the course of two years and O and Real Simple had entered the market as our competitors."

In response, Martha Stewart Living began research and testing to change the circumstances.

"It was important to focus on the consumer and to continue to market a high-quality product," Ms. Stanich said. "We needed to keep the readers and then the advertisers would eventually return."

In 2005 advertisers did begin to return, which allowed the brand to expand.

"We really focused on women's needs from their Wedding to Blueprint to Martha Stewart Living," Ms. Stanich said. "With the passionate consumer, contact is the core of our business strategy."

Martha Stewart Living also plans to put extra focus on its online content.

"We want to make the Internet a key part of our strategy," Ms. Stanich said. "We will focus on strong editorial content that has the possibility to be on a TV show and eventually could become a product."

The title currently receives 10 percent of its subscriptions online.

"We are in the process of migrating more content online to engage readers in a rich multichannel experience," Ms. Stanich said. "We strongly believe in the future of magazines, but we feel we have to have a strong multiplatform strategy."

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