May 31, 2022 - Economy

Exclusive: Dotdash Meredith targeting print investments

harry Styles cover

Harry Styles on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. Photo courtesy Better Homes and Gardens

Dotdash Meredith plans to possibly add more print titles to some of its flagship brands, CEO Neil Vogel told me in an interview at SABEW's annual conference for business journalism. Moving forward, print brands will be "smaller in circulation and much more luxury."

Why it matters: For years, Meredith operated print businesses that weren't necessarily growing, Vogel explained.

  • "I think they were reluctant to make some of the tougher calls around print," Vogel said. "We are no longer willing to print magazines that people are no longer willing to pay for."

The strategy: Moving forward, the company will invest in print products that cater to hyper-enthusiasts.

  • "We're actually going to add small pieces of print — not economically relevant — to some of our other brands."
  • One brand the company could eye a print investment for is Brides, which ended its print edition when Dotdash bought it in 2019.

Catch up quick: The company made the decision to cut some print titles from Meredith's portfolio in February, a few months after IAC, Dotdash's parent, acquired Meredith's magazine business for $2.7 billion last year.

  • It axed the print editions of EatingWell, Entertainment Weekly, Health, InStyle, Parents and People en Español.
  • "We're on the other side of our major print changes," Vogel said. "We took a ton of revenue out of the print business because revenue isn't what's driving us now, it's brand and profitability," Vogel said.

By the numbers: The company has several core print tittles: People, Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Allrecipes, Magnolia and Southern Living.

  • "Those magazines have a viable need for print," Vogel explained. "It's not financially the most important thing we do, but it's the most important thing we're doing for branding."
  • Vogel said those print properties are profitable and the company will continue to invest in them with enhanced photography, paper, etc.

Between the lines: The company took a big gamble last month by putting pop icon Harry Styles on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. But the bet paid off.

  • "The first day of the Harry Styles issue, we did not put a link of how to buy the magazine online ... anywhere, and we sold 15,000 copies. That's how crazy the thing went."
  • "I think you can get (younger generations) really excited about print when you do Harry Styles type things," Vogel said.

What's next: In an effort to convert those print businesses toward being reliant on consumer revenue over ads, the company began letting subscribers who weren't paying much for their subscriptions run out without renewals.

  • For example, Better Homes & Gardens' circulation now hovers above 4 million, down from roughly 7 million when it bought the magazine.
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