Everybody's a Critic

Layoffs at Meredith

The New York Times reports that Meredith, publisher of Better Homes & Gardens and other garden pubs, is laying off 250 employees and closing Country Home magazine. If anybody’s got the scoop on whether any garden writers got the axe, drop us a line.

And here’s an interesting sidenote.  The Times story says that those 250 employees represent 7% of their workforce. Our GardenRant math department tell us that this means that Meredith must employ over 3500 people.  At first I thought, that can’t be right.  But the article says that revenue is $370 million, which represents just over $100K in revenue per employee.  (Not that everybody at Meredith would make that much; it’s just a handy ratio to figure.)

Or here’s another figure.  Combined circulation of their 13 magazines and many special interest publications is 30 million. That works out to one reader for every twelve dollars in revenue. (not counting audiences for their books, websites, etc, but still…)

I have no conclusions to draw.  It’s just idle commentary from the sidelines as the media churns through whatever it’s churning through. Interesting times….

Posted by on January 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm, in the category Everybody's a Critic.
Comments are off for this post

14 Responses to “Layoffs at Meredith”

  1. commonweeder says:

    I’m going to miss Country Home. It is not only a personal favorite, it was a favorite of my library patrons. Your posting is an interesting look at publishing finances, and even allowing for the fact that there are other costs to publishing than salaries (paper,ink, postage, electricity, rent, etc)one does wonder how much profit anyone requires in the financial world.

  2. Maybe bloggers are killing these pubs.

  3. Genevieve says:

    I think Michelle is right that bloggers are killing a lot of these publications.

    It’s really nice to have personal interaction with those providing your garden advice, to get to choose your own regional experts and view photos from the “real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens” that actually resemble your own (and haven’t been stuffed to unreality), and have the immediacy of posts from a variety of sources every day.

    Plus none of those stupid subscription cards fall out of the internet and litter your floor.

  4. Marte says:

    I used to buy alot of magazines at the newstand but rarely buy them anymore because the prices seem high to me. Five or six dollars for a magazine just seems expensive to me. Guess I am showing my age!

  5. Working at a gardening magazine run by one of the only private, family-owned publishing businesses left in the country makes it easy for me to understand why magazines can cost so much money at the newsstand. It’s a lot of work to produce a good one! Also, ours relies on the content to make the bulk of its money, rather than advertising, hence the higher price. But you won’t find any fashion ads in our pages to make you feel inferior, which has to count for something. If you think about how much enjoyment you get from your favorite magazine, it might not seem like so much to spend. Less than lunch out.

  6. Nikki Smith says:

    Washington Home & Garden magazine is making an effort to include more garden content in its pages and on the website. I would know – I’m the editor, and I’m the one pushing for it.

    I would love to make contact with more garden writers, so if anyone has leads, do get in touch with me. You can reach me through the website. Thanks!

    http://www.whgmag.com/151-nikki/

  7. Amy, I heard from a garden blogging friend that 2 of the garden editors–Marcia Jahns and Doug Hall–were let go. The writers are all freelance.

  8. anon coward says:

    FYI, Meredith Corporation’s business extends to more than just its magazines and special interest publications. They own TV stations across the nation and create custom publications for Kraft and other conglomerates, too.

    Lots of pain in Des Moines today.

  9. It is sad news to hear that more people have lost their jobs.
    I hope that these folks have a Plan B in place to take them through this rough economical patch that this country ( and world ) is experiencing.

    I’ve never been a big fan of BH+G.
    One too many times they have wasted my time and my clients time with photography shoots and interviews yet did not run the article due to yet another ‘change in management’.
    I don’t even bother to return their phone calls now.
    Plus their paper stock for their regular monthly magazine is horrible as well as their poor graphics and page layout.
    And where is the cutting edge + sustainable gardens, garden plants and other garden related information ? Nada, nowhere to be found.

    In a down economy we gardeners are going to be very selective on where we spend our few discretionary dollars.
    In the case of garden magazines, it will be those like ‘Fine Gardening’, ‘Garden Design’ and ‘Horticulture’ that wins out due to up to date information , great graphics, good page layout and exceptional writing and photography.

  10. This is a very sad news indeed. I don’t find it appropriate to play armchair quarterback about how or why. At the end of the day, these folks don’t have a job to go to tomorrow. And those remaining aren’t exactly happy either, remember – By the Grace of God go I. Behind every magazine are people, good people who work hard to produce a good product. I pay my bills through gardening, I hold my breath I’ll make it through the year.

  11. BTW The only relevance in looking at revenue per employee is if there were no other expenses such as printing, paper, ink, buildings(rent) electricity, gas, phone, taxes, insurance, computers, travel, etc. and also salaries,

  12. Renegade Gardener says:

    This was tough news. I have some Meredith experience and insight.

    I started writing for Meredith publications about eight years ago, and getting a Meredith assignment has always been a mark of high pride in the garden writer world. My first book was one I did for Meredith Books, I’ve been their MN garden scout, and have written for four of their magazines over the years, including BH&G. Just finished an article for one of their SIPs, Landscape Solutions, that will be published this year.

    Meredith has always been tops in every writer’s book. Great pay, fabulous editors, good, fun people, and a beautiful (and yes, very large) headquarters in Des Moines. Meredith in Des Moines takes up a city block and spans across the street. And of course they have (had?) NYC offices and sales offices around the country.

    I had also just started writing for Country Home in 2008–wrote their 2008 Essential Gardening Guide, a decent little booklet that went out to selected subscribers last year, and was booked to do their 2009 Guide, plus produce and appear in a series of web videos. So if you want to know the ripple effect, here I am!

    Every inch of the way, Meredith has been a first-class operation. They have always paid lavishly. I know a BH&G garden scout in the PNW who did it full time and made $75K a year. BH&G owned the gardening world from the 60s through the 80s. But then two things happened: their readership got old, and new competition appeared.

    I think the layoffs in Des Moines and shuttering of Country Home are partially a case of a very large army not being quick enough to adapt to guerilla warfare. That’s a big company, and for many decades they made a fine profit (note to a few posters above: Profit is GOOD–good for our economy, for our country, for everyone). You’re supposed to make a profit. Don’t try working without it.

    Yes, the garden bloggers (and those darn, free informational gardening websites) are one of the competition factors. You have to remember, for those of us older than 45, magazines, books, and newspapers were the ONLY way to access information. So we hang on, we’re trained to enjoy opening the mailbox and seeing what’s on the cover of our favorite gardening mag each month. Young homeowners/gardeners in their 20s and 30s have always had the internet, and it’s always been their first, natural way to access info. Sitting down and reading a magazine, for some, is not natural. Add a subscription price to it, and it makes zero sense to them.

    Then, other gardening magazines appeared, or improved, and, in terms of stealing subscribers from BH&G, they offered readers gardening without the presumption that they also lived in a large house and wanted a lavish lifestyle. Fine Gardening doesn’t care how big your house or your lot is. And they appeal to those younger homeowners who do look at magazines. Look at their layout style. They have the fairly standard feature articles, but on many pages, the info is succinct, tight, and looks like a web page.

    Merdith will survive, BH&G will survive, for as long as there are publishers and magazines. They still employ some of the best minds in publishing. They still own a large majority of the gardening SIP market. But in addition to getting leaner, I thnk you’ll see all their publications getting hipper and more practical at the same time.

  13. Cathy says:

    I feel badly for the employees who are being let go. Especially since I see that one of the heirs is still buying EXPENSIVE show horses!

  14. Diana says:

    You really are heartless. And clueless. Especially to the vagaries of publishing in today’s most difficult economic market. Meredith’s garden magazines showcase the very best of our industry, packaging accurate—and compelling—horticultural information for the general public. Amy, why do you persist in belittling all their good work and commenting caddily while decent, hardworking people lose their jobs in garden communications? Doesn’t seem like you’ve read any of Meredith’s garden magazines lately, which includes the good work of all our garden friends, including Rob Cardillo, Dan Heims, Marty Ross, Irene Virag, Debra Prinzing, Adam Levine, Laurie Black, Andre Baronowski, Lynn Karlin, Felder Rushing, Katherine Whiteside, Lee May, Brent and Becky Heath, Pam Baggett, Scott Kunst, Ken Druse, Nancy Ondra, Karen Weir-Jimerson, Jenks Farmer, Tovah Martin, Scott Calhoun, Barbara Damrosch, Matthew Benson, Kindra Clineff, and Dan Hinkley. Meredith supports literally hundreds of freelance garden writers and photographers, but obviously none of you who host this depressing blog. Your comments appear especially glib and insensitive during this most discouraging economic climate. Do you want garden magazines to continue to be published and available at newsstands nationwide? It seems to me that Meredith garden magazines unapologetically feature all sorts of sustainable gardens, rain gardens, xeriscape gardens, organic edible gardens, native landscapes, certified wildlife habitats, prairie gardens, urban community gardens—all tended by “real gardeners”—you just haven’t seemed to notice. Meredith magazines also pride themselves on regularly reiterating healthy garden practices to literally hundreds of thousands of more gardeners than will ever visit your bitter blog. And I don’t even work for Meredith. Shame on you.

  • Follow Garden Rant

    Follow Me on Pinterest RSS