Hearst Relaunches American Home; Cocooning Yuppies and New Traditionalists Entice Hearst into the Crowded Home Field

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Hearst relaunches American Home

New York City--The aging of the baby boomers has meant good things for magazines covering homes and gardens, so much so that Hearst's Special Publication Division plans to enter what many sources say is an already crowded field.

Hearst will test American Home in August with roughly the same method it used to launch Country Living, Colonial Homes and Victoria: 400,000 newsstand copies and a second issue if response to subscription insert cards and newsstand sales is high enough. Precisely what that response rate must be, John Mack Carter, director of magazine development for Hearst, refuses to say. "The numbers are different for each magazine," he says, adding that he'd be surprised if American Home pulls close to Victoria's 80 percent sell-through two years ago (see sidebar).

American Home will be a service magazine for home-owning yuppies with household incomes of $40,000 or more. It will cover architecture, home furnishings and improvements, gardening and entertaining. Target readers are 25 to 35, a younger market than many other publications in the field deliver.

This will be Carter's second go-around with American Home, which originally started in the 1920s. Carter bought the magazine from Curtis Publishing in the early 1970s and revamped it. He then sold it to Charter Publishing in 1975. After several years of losses, Charter suspended publication in 1978. The title was sold to Hearst as part of the Redbook acquisition in 1983.

Bringing back a once-failed concept was a decision not taken lightly, according to Tom Wolf, publisher of Hearst's Special Publications Group. He has been studying the project for four years and says that research and focus groups point to a new audience receptiveness among those he and others call the new traditionalists. "There's a respect for the past that's a lot stronger now," he says. "It's the cocooning thing. The home is much more important."

Competition is stiff: Standard Rate & Data Service lists more than 130 publications in the home service field. Many of them are regionals or tightly focused publications covering kitchens or wall treatments, for instance.

Competitors are less than enthusiastic about the new entrant in a crowded field: "If a new publication comes in, it probably means the death of something else," says Steve Levinson, publisher of Family Media's 1,001 Home Ideas. "It doesn't say much for the strength and vitality of the market we all sell to."

Levinson questions Hearst's reasoning in starting a "somewhat upscale shelter book" when Hearst apparently has problems with its other shelter magazines. …