American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview

Despite their achievements, the owners were still under economic pressure from the buyout and themselves sought a buyer. In the fall of 1985 they sold the magazine to Owen J. Lipstein, the founder and owner of the highly successful American Health magazine. 17 Lipstein, noting the appeal of country music and country living, wasted no time in giving Mother the subtitle The Original Country Magazine, then poured $900,000 into design (more color, better-quality paper) and $550,000 into promotion. 18

Nevertheless, Mother has not lost its purpose; it still runs articles on gardening, food, crafts, and the outdoors. Lipstein bristles at the suggestion that Mother's content has been diluted. "We didn't buy this magazine to rid it of its conscience. This magazine has a mission, the distillation of information; it takes a stand." Again: "We are not changing the magazine in any major way . . . although negative political stuff [such as the suggestion that if you live in a city you are bad] will be eliminated. . . . The latter wasn't a distillation of information, it was theology." 19

Today's circulation is down to about 750,000 from a high of over a million in 1982. 20 This drop might be attributed to a lessening of public concern about energy and to the affluence of Mother's audience: the more wealth people acquire, the less likely they are to want to "do for themselves." 21 Since 1986, however, paid circulation has risen steadily (it was 745,000 in 1987; 790,000 in 1988), which suggests that Lipstein's enhancements may be having an effect. 22

One may argue that Mother has "sold out to the establishment." But one may also argue that it has merely adapted to changing circumstances. A failure to adapt may explain why the Whole Earth Catalog, Mother's early competitor, became extinct in 1971. In contrast, Mother--with a paid circulation of about 750,000 and a potential for growth--is far from extinct. Whether the current fad is communes or careers or country living, Mother succeeds in attracting readers who wish to lead healthy and independent lives, and who wish to do the earth a good turn by doing something good for themselves.


Notes
1.
"Statement of Ownership", Mother Earth News, January-February, 1987.
2.
Mary Huntzinger, "Mother Spreads the Word," McCall's, February 1972, p. 56.
3.
John N. Cole, "Mr. Mother," Horticulture, February 1978, p. 27.
5.
John Shuttleworth, "Report to Mother's Readers," Mother Earth News, November 1979, p. 44.
6.
Huntzinger, p. 56.
7.
Cole, p. 20.
8.
Huntzinger, p. 56; Cole, p. 22.
9.
Gregory Jaynes, "Mother Earth, Mon Amour," New Times, 7 February 1975, p. 49.
11.
Cole, p. 25.

-261-

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