Canadian Magazine Industry News
13 March 2009,     TORONTO
Homemakers stakes its position in a crowded field
The women's service magazine category—long the dominant ad dollar winner in the Canadian market—has exploded in the last decade with the launches of Best Health (Reader’s Digest, 2008), More (Transcontinental, 2007, also in French), Wish (St. Joseph Media, 2004, now dead), Glow (Rogers, 2002) and Elle Canada (Transcontinental, 2001, also in French).

Last year’s estimated $17 million decline in toiletry and cosmetics advertising, however, caused major pain for nearly every book in the crowded category and hardest hit among them was Transcontinental’s 44-year-old Homemakers, where run-of-press ad pages dropped 34.4% (178.86 actual pages).

Homemakers has a paid circulation around 350,000 and a PMB 2008-measured readership of 1.8 million.
Having foreseen these challenges, the Homemakers team embarked on a redesign and refocusing of the magazine last spring, the results of which can be seen in the just-released April 2009 issue.

Partnering with Toronto-based Ove Design & Communications, Homemakers staff spent 10 months on the project, conducting consumer and market research—focus groups, one-on-one interviews and online—to learn more about what readers and potential readers want from the magazine.

The goals, according to publisher Lynn Chambers:
  1. Clearly differentiate Homemakers from the competition (including sister Transcon titles Canadian Living and More);
  2. Attracting new and ideally younger readers.
The results: A renewed emphasis on healthy living and food, tweaked and tuned for the specific needs of the Homemakers audience. “Our readers are like armchair health enthusiasts,” Chambers says. They aspire to go to the gym, oftentimes don’t make it, but they love reading about it.”

Magazines such as Best Health promote more of a “prescription and plan” version of health, Chambers says, whereas Homemakers will offer “promise and potential.” “We don’t want to give people advice where they feel guilty for not doing it,” she says.

Gone are sections dedicated to fashion and home décor, though both Chambers and editor Kathy Ullyott say those subjects will find still find their way into the book. “As much people enjoyed the content, they didn’t think of Homemakers as a leader in these areas,” Chambers says.

Changing the perception that Homemakers is a magazine “about afghans and meatloaf” is a priority, says editor Ullyott. The team even discussed a name change, she says, but research revealed that “readers were loyal to the name. They thought there was a lot of equity and trust associated with it.”

About $300,000 was invested in the project, Chambers says, including a luncheon for advertisers. “That was a key priority in this whole project,” Chambers says. "We want to get them to see Homemakers differently. It brought the brand to life.”
— Marco Ursi
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