Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The State of the Magazines

[open links in a new window to avoid disruption of the podcast]

This week it's just us and we offer our candid personal opinions on the current issues of the major shelter magazines - both print and digital. We do want to make it clear that we are in awe of all the work and heart that goes into producing these publications - especially the new digital versions. Kudos to everyone. However, in addition to our praise, we also had criticisms that we share as well. We hope these will be taken in the spirit intended. And we count on you,  our commenters, to maintain the same level of respect as well should you wish to offer your opinions.


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vicki archer said...

Good chat LInda, Joni and Megan....The biggest problem with the increasing amount of magazines online is finding the time to enjoy them...There in lies the challenge for those producing them...How to grab our already diminishing attention span? Linda I still think your cover image from the Christmas issue of 'Surroundings' was extraordinary....and from my experience, it is always and will always be about the cover. xv

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the discussion of House Beautiful changes. I know they are trying for the Y generation dollars but at the expense of good design verses trends. The format reads like a whats Hot list instead of wonderful photography/text of great design work.

Anonymous said...

I haven't listened to your podcast yet, but I definitely have an opinion on online magazines. I love the Zinio reader & thoroughly enjoy reading magazines on my Ipad. However, Isuu isn't my favorite - probably because you have to read it on a computer. I don't mind curling up in front of the fire with my Ipad, but reading a magazine on a laptop is a buzz kill. I think it's something about using a mouse to turn the page.

Anonymous said...

I think Linda said it best when she commented on the fact that as bloggers you are more saturated with photographs than your average reader and therefor grow more weary of seeing the same style images. Someone stated they were over the Belgian look which is exactly what's wrong with decorating according to trends. It seems all of you are wanting to see a more eclectic mix of styles and designs in the mags and I would agree with that. That way, a larger appeal is made to differing tastes and it becomes less likely that there is an over abundance of one design scheme being published.

Crystal @ Rue said...

Thank you for another lively discussion ladies! We're honored that Rue was part of the conversation and ALWAYS enjoy and appreciate hearing from our readers!

Luciane at said...

That's right, girls!!! I am 100% with you about HB! They need to care more! We want to see new things. Joni made great points about HB!

I love hearing you guys... it's really fun!


Luciane at

Post of the Day: Rustic Modern Barn.

Mrs. Blandings said...

You all said out loud all the things I was thinking about HB this month. A "pink" issue seemed like a fine idea, but the re-runs were an odd choice. Also, the houses seemed a stretch; they were more styled pink than pink themselves. Other than Sommers's, which I loved as much for her attitude as her work. It was nice to see some actual writing, however. Prisant's essay was a breath of fresh air - just the right length - and a welcome break from the tedious interview format. (I know I am a broken record on this.)

I'm still struggling with the digital concept. I just don't get why I'm waiting a month or two for such long issues, as Megan said.

Oh, and, I do wonder if the economy has had an affect on the houses available. I know there are a lot of stalled projects here in town - beautiful homes that have the master or the office "on hold." It could be the kind of thing that would make a designer hesitate to submit.

Bridget said...

I am listening now and have to agree that I keep seeing the same thing in these magazines. I love blogs, but they can't compete with having a beautiful magazine to hold and rip out pictures for projects. I'd pay more for magazines if they'd come through and give us better content. Even a beautiful one every other month would be better. So glad to know I wasn't the only one feeling like House Beautiful is slipping (which is sad). You were out of luck if you didn't like pink this month!

Concrete Jungle said...

Personally I love the digital magazines lliving where I live...but totally agree make them shorter and monthly!
By the time they load etc.they are just too long. Great call out Joni on the repeats...if these are the leaders in the design mag world there is trouble brewing!

Concrete Jungle said...

PS I love Linda's as I always want a little more!

Tina Ramer said...

I really miss the old Veranda, and Southern Accents! I think so many of the new magazines and emagizines are full of trendy and cheap looking furniture that is not cheap! I wamt to see high end designers doing high end homes to inspire my clients and myself, and it is my job to encourage my client to purchase classic, timeless investments that they will keep.
Tina Ramer

Lili said...

I love pink, so I actually liked the HB pink issue. But then, I haven't read HB in something like 15 years. It just caught my eye on the shelf while I was waiting for a prescription.

Teacats said...

Great discussion! The term for the ever-present products pages in magazines of any sort is "Advertorial" Basically it is another way to garner and gather favor from advertisers and retailers. And Joni's recall of house/home decor photos is simply incredible! Of course the very simple explanation for any magazine using "old" photos is to save money on photoshoots. I am hoping for an upcoming segment from SRT on Traditional Home magazine -- I did love the home featured on pages 74-81 in the February issue. The designer was Madeline Stuart.

Thanks for another wonderful show! And I wonder where Mr. Drucker may show up next?

Jan at Rosemary Cottage (an old fashioned paper magazine addict)

Kellie Collis said...

Gorgeous magazines! Eye candies! Have a beautiful day, Kellie xx

Karena said...

Really interesting discussion. I will leaf through one of my favorite magazines, and see so much clutter, instead of as Jonie says; Home Features.

I do know that a lot of high end owners do not want their homes featured, however even designer do love to get the press.

As bloggers, we see so many images, I really follow blog etiquette and visit my readers sites, even those who never or rarely comment on mine. So sometimes I am overloaded, and will not buy a magazine that is not fresh, clean, and exciting!

Art by Karena

jlonit said...

House Beautiful is my favourite magazine and I'm slowly becoming despondent about it. The latest I read was the blue/green February issue and it was flat and didn't excite me like it used to. I do not like all the new stupid small features like "makeover in a day" - I want long features about beautiful homes with beautiful pictures.

I agree with Joni, it's too fragmented, and trying to pack in too many silly "projects" and "makeovers" like some sort of DIY magazine. I live in a one bedroom apartment and I love the scope and scale and luxury of the homes featured in House Beautiful and feel that Newell is trying to go downmarket or something (could he be copying the online shelter magazines layouts?). It's starting to feel like an IKEA catalogue (much as I love IKEA).

Sarah said...

Great discussion...Joni, I agree with you - I too remember houses and pictures and its never good if a magazine starts recycling old pictures. I too am struggling with the digital magazine - I sooo love to read a magazine, hold it and look through it again and again. Reading on the computer...let's face hurts the eyes after awhile. And another thing - the digitals are WAY too long -they should be half the pages. I feel like I just don't have the time to go through them.

Dianne said...

Enjoyed the conversation BUT....House Beautiful, which you bashed, told us on the cover that it was 10 rooms they could not forget!!!! Meaning, 10 rooms that had been published before. So that was expected.
Traditional Home has always been a favorite and remains so.They had the prettiest Christmas issue on the market.
I do think that you ladies are more saturated with homes than the average magazine buyer and that makes a huge difference.

Jennifer @ Belclaire House said...

Great discussion! Y'all are certainly keeping the magazines on their toes and I love it. I soo miss Southern Accents. I was looking through some of my mom's old inspiration clippings from Southern Accents and I think there is a real void there. I would like to see a magazine (online or print) the style, taste and tone of Southern Accents but broadened to include interiors beyond just those physically in the South.

elizgonz said...

The online format of the new mags is difficult for me to read and re-read and the writing is def. kind of bloggy (ex: every room is "ethereal" and . I'm a sucker for pretty pictures, so I'll always at least scan the photos. I'm looking forward to Trad Home because it seems that it will have the most financial support at the start. Hopefully, the quality will be good.

I'm sick of "Top Picks" features. One of them recently included a cute, but super flimsy table from Nate's HSN collection. The online reviews of that table are just awful. I can't imagine why they'd be pushing a crummy product.

Keep up the good work, ladies.

S@sha said...

I'm glad that you addressed some criticisms of the magazines in a constructive way. I've had every single thought that you have regarding both the print and online magazines. It seems like a circular problem to me, the online magazines are copying the format from print magazines of the domino era, while the print magazines are trying to adopt some online influences, like the rehashed pictures, abbreviated content, smaller budgets. I think its hurting all of them. I also sometimes thing that the biggest problem of the online mags is the lack of self-editing as you put it. Its great that the web is democratic and anyone can start a magazine, but a good editorial eye is something that usually comes from years of working in an industry. I find that blogs written by Gen Y-ers are without fail self-congratulatory and postitive- there is no room for constructive criticism, because that generation is all about complimentary feedback. To me it hurts the content, because a good editor can be brutal with exclusion. Personally I'd like to see the online magazines step up with more original home features. I think my favorite online magazine is Covet Garden because it's short, monthly and showcases homes that I've never seen any where else.

Market Decor said...

The digital magazines are here to stay and I do admire the hard work involved in putting these magazines together. But... they must get with it and EDIT. They need to quickly establish, clearly, what they are all about. They all seem scattered, jumping from this to that. As for Lonny, Rue, & High Gloss, I think a pitfall may be in trying to be so tendy, so hip - real content is lacking. I was impressed by Matchbook's interviews with Rita Konig, John Derian, & Miles Redd - they should focus on this more! I also cannot stand all the fashion & food in a home decor magazine - personal taste. Maybe, in the end, all this will inspire whatever print magazines we have left (still love the "real" thing!)to be better, much better. We need quality, outstanding design work, substance.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

As much as I love when you have guests, there really is nothing that beats a chat with just you 3. It's been so long since I've taken the time to listen...and this was great!

I am just like Joni and pictures are embedded in my mind. Sometimes I think I am imagining it. Just pick up an issue for DECOR magazine and you will see homes from all the mags recyled there. So it's possible to find a lost tear sheet or image there. Many are over five years old.

As far as the HB cover and content,I am in total agreement. I was beyond annoyed that a magazine I pay for a subscription is recyling recent material. It's absurd. And, it's not just people like Joni, me, bloggers and designers who notice. I actually had a friend/goverment official notice. That's bad. It's was a pink room with a zig-zag yellow chair. A bit unique for anyone to forget whether you loved it or hated it.

And, yes please enough with the product pushes and trend segments.I personally like the Veranda covers because they are not loaded up with text. Most importantly, I think shelter magazines have to give us big pictures that show the details of a room/house no matter what.

I applaud anyone who can tackle an online magazine and am trying to read them more. Personally, I think the secret to success is a great cover, a variety of interior styles and short issues. I think anything past 150 pages is hard to keep reading on a screen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joni,

I find it easy to identify the duplications, and I don't look at decorating mags that often. It is disappointing that a publication dups it loyal readers in such a fashion. It makes one not one to be very loyal in the future.

I frankly have stopped buying decorating magazines since I have run onto the online decorating blogs.....forget the online decorating magazines.........i prefer the blogs to the decorating magazines........... you to pieces......and love how all three of you interact. Keep it up. You are a diverse group and I respect each of you what you bring to the discussion and how you do it.

Mike Springer said...

I’m surprised nobody mentioned the last two issues of Architectural digest. As a kitchen designer I noticed that many of the projects featured a photo of the kitchen. We didn’t get that much in the past. New fresh look but they still have the same cover.
I don’t see as many blogs and magazines as you gals do so the content in House Beautiful was new to me. So they went to the archives…OK by me. Again H.B. shows lots of kitchens so I’m happy.
Very few big high end projects in my area. That market is dead right now so you’re going to see some substandard content in the magazines and some “re-runs”. In St. Louis the kitchens winning the local design contests are from 2-3 years ago. Until the economy comes back we will see more of the same.
Rumor is that Drucker may move onto book publishing. Sad if true.

French said...

Very interesting to hear you three sans guests. I agree I look for new vs recycled images from the mags; had already seen all of these in HB.... I saved my old World of Interiors and Maison et Jardin issues; there was much less filler and more and larger pics.

Re the Picks page, I think there is a good following, "regular" people are looking for "new" stuff. I've had very good buzz and sales when my baskets were featured.

margot said...

Well, I'm late to the party but would like to add my 2 cents. First, as a long time print editor I would like to thank you for the statement "editing is hard". Yes, it is. In journalism we call it "killing your babies" (sorry, I know that's gross) but basically it comes down to that -- whether it's a phrase, a favourite chair on a product page or a shot from an interior story -- they can't ALL make it in. Editing is hard. Some of us have made a career out of it. Some are dabblers...there's room for all of us.

A word about pacing. Good pacing makes good editing -- that's the reason behind the typical mag architecture of product pages, short features, then long uninterrupted interiors (we call it the Well). You build up to the really good yummy stuff -- like an ap before your main. Product pages are usually the MOST read in magazines.

House Beautiful - interesting discussion. I liked the package of pulling together pink rooms. Though we have seen many before, we hadn't seen them side by side. I enjoyed seeing them together to compare the different shades used -- the many moods of pink.

One correction to a comment above: product pages are not advertorial. Advertorials are pages that are bought and paid for by a sponsor but designed to mimic editorial. Product pages are not bought and paid for by the makers of the items featured.

Jeannine @ Small and Chic said...

Thank you for addressing the length of these new online magazines!

They are too, too long. I lose interest after a while and one can't fold the page down and return to the issue at a later time!

KitchAnn said...

I agree with so many of the previous comments. I read the online mags from my laptop and I find that I am less likely to read the articles and just scan the pictures. I think if there was some better editing I might be enticed to zoom in to read the content.

Mrs. Marley said...

The use of recycled images is more noticeable to the non-professional than Linda implies. I am not a decorator, and I only subscribe to two magazines—Elle Décor and HB—yet I feel just as frustrated as Joni. When I saw the cover of the HB “Pink” issue, my first thought was we were going to see more of the Windsor Smith house they had featured so recently. The reality was quite disappointing. I believe the role of decor magazines is to keep us informed of what’s new and exciting out there. So when I see pictures repeated I feel cheated as a reader and subscriber. If I wanted to re-view a certain home, I would just go to the magazine’s website.

The other gripe I have is particular to Elle Décor. Month after month, articles will refer to specific features, many of which are not shown in the pictures. This month is was the reference to the “funky Swedish grandfather clock” in Kit and Tim Kemp’s home. It seems like dirty pool to intrigue us with a comment like that and then not show it to us! I encounter this in every issue of ED.

Thanks for the interesting topic!