Real Women, Real Collaboration: How Ladies’ Home Journal Transformed Print Media

The print media business today is in constant evolution.  With so many digital and socially-generated choices available to consumers, traditional magazines and newspapers are challenged to keep and grow their readership.  Meredith Corporation’s Ladies’ Home Journal, an iconic brand that has been delivering quality content to women for over 100 years, is certainly not immune to this pressure.  But how does a venerable brand keep pace with and thrive amidst the noisy, digital landscape?

That was the critical question for Ladies’ Home Journal editors in early 2011, as they looked to re-imagine, not just what the brand could be, but how print media itself could be co-created with readers.  Taking cues from online communities and social networks, they sought to create a new kind of magazine; one that would meld the raw reality of socially-generated digital content with the vetted, authoritative material traditionally found in print.

To turn this vision into reality, Britta Cleveland, Meredith Corporation’s Vice President of Research Solutions, looked to her active Communispace online community, Real Women Talking.  This vibrant and exclusive community of 300 women has provided unique and actionable insights to Britta and her team since 2007.  For this effort, Britta’s team worked closely with Communispace and the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Sally Lee, to hear directly from these valuable customers – both current and prospective readers—what mattered most to them, while testing and refining concepts. Responses were open, honest, and enlightening. Being able to iterate at a fast pace allowed the editors to evolve the tone and content quickly and with confidence; from start-to-finish, the magazine was transformed in nine months.  In this setting community members were able to co-create alongside the magazine editors, and Meredith was secure in knowing that everything was being done in private.

The “re-visioned” Journal launched in March of 2012, to rave reviews from readers and the industry press.  The new Journal is paper-based yet, in its design, tone, features, and content, mirrors how women interact with one another on social-networking sites and in online communities. It invites participation, connection, and the sharing and celebration of one’s personal, real-life stories.  “The magazine feels innovative now,” Sally Lee explained to me, “I’ve never experienced this level of innovation in a magazine before.  We actually changed the spirit of the book.”

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