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More 'Living,' Less 'Martha Stewart' for Magazine, Brand

Troubles at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. have not kept the company from expanding its horizons as it seeks to distance the lifestyle brand from its embattled founder.

The media and merchandising company paid $6 million Aug. 12 for New Age Publishing Inc.'s Body & Soul magazine and Thorne Communications Inc.'s Dr. Andrew Weil's Self Healing newsletter.

“This is another important step in evolving MSO as a how-to … company offering multiple brands built on expert information, inspiration and products dedicated to educating and improving lifestyles,” company president/CEO Sharon Patrick said in a statement.

A call to the company was not returned.

Body & Soul takes Martha Stewart into the natural living category, one that complements the Martha Stewart Living magazine demographics. It is also an emerging market. According to The Natural Marketing Institute, the natural lifestyle market has 60 million active consumers and $227 billion in spending.

Founded in 1974 as the New Age Journal and renamed in 2001, Body & Soul editorial covers organic food, natural medicine, mind-body fitness, environmentally conscious consumerism and spiritual and personal growth. The magazine, published eight times yearly, has a circulation of 200,000.

Body & Soul was repositioned in 2003 toward a how-to focus with more industry experts in its pages. Janesse Bruce, CEO of both New Age and Thorne, led the repositioning.

Dr. Andrew Weil's Self Healing newsletter debuted in 1995. It claims to be the nation's leading integrative medicine newsletter. The publication is named for the Harvard-trained physician who supports integrative medicine, a combination of natural cures and practices with the best of Western medicine.

Martha Stewart soon will redesign Body & Soul and add national advertising. The company will cross-promote the acquired properties through circulation and online marketing. This will help expand the magazine and newsletter into much larger how-to brands with companion television and merchandising programs and brand labels.

The acquisitions follow the extension of the Everyday Food magazine brand to a new TV show. The broadcast program will air on PBS stations nationwide starting in January.

Body & Soul and Dr. Andrew Weil's Self Healing newsletter add to the Martha Stewart publishing portfolio, which includes Everyday Food, Martha Stewart Weddings, Martha Stewart Kids, Petkeeping with Marc Morrone and the flagship Martha Stewart Living.

Most Martha Stewart titles have suffered advertiser defections since former CEO Martha Stewart's conviction on charges related to insider stock trading.

Meanwhile, the company broke an advertising and public relations campaign Aug. 16 to coincide with the redesign of Martha Stewart Living. A back-cover ad in Advertising Age shows a September Martha Stewart Living issue with an updated cover design and new logo. Most stark is the reduction of the founder's name to a small type size above the word “Living.”

“1.8 million reasons to take a new look at Living,” reads the ad's headline. Copy mentions Martha Stewart Living's rate base — the circulation guaranteed to advertisers — of 1.8 million copies and a readership of 12 million.

The copy says, “Living magazine is a leader in the lifestyle category and continues to set the standard for how-to information, innovation, and pure inspiration. And now, with new features and an updated design, we've made a 'good thing' even better.”

The name “Martha Stewart” is not mentioned in the ad, except in the image of the magazine cover.

The ad will run for a few weeks, according to a note from executive vice president and publisher Suzanne Sobel. Her letter to the media, and communications to advertisers and prospects, stresses the word “Living” as the magazine's title.

“Readers are willing to pay a premium,” she wrote. “Living's average subscription price [$19.95 for 12 issues] is one of the highest in our competitive set.”

She cites reasons for that rate from a spring survey for Martha Stewart Living. In that survey, 90 percent of responding readers said that Living “is a quality magazine,” “stands for how-to ideas,” “is a good teacher,” “is a magazine I trust” and “is a magazine that understands my sense of taste and style.”

“Never underestimate the value of a great product,” Sobel said.

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