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COUNTRY TIME: Amid general retrenchment in the shelter and lifestyle category, Country Living has a (relatively) new editor and a new look, and appears to be toughing it out better than some of its head-to-head competitors.
Sarah Gray Miller, who became editor of the magazine in November when O at Home was folded into O, The Oprah Magazine, sees the magazine’s mission as particularly relevant given the economic times — so much so that she took the magazine’s tagline, “Come home to comfort,” off the spine and put it on the cover. “The magazine’s values resonate so much right now,” Miller said. “And we’ve always been about crafting and entertaining at home.”
Miller has given the magazine a facelift with the May issue, with new fonts, more product information and the return of the personal essay. She stressed that while the magazine’s DNA is staying the same, it will have a more contemporary look.
Country Living (often confused with the now-defunct Meredith title Country Home, including in this column) has experienced less advertising bleeding than many others in the category: year to date through April, it’s down only 8 percent, for a total of 273 pages. The title continues to have a large newsstand presence, though it’s diminished in the last five years, dropping from a yearly average of 296,088 copies sold on the newsstand in 2004 to a little over half that in 2008. Miller said recent issues she’d tweaked even before the redesign were showing new life on the newsstand, pointing out that March single copy sales are up 10 percent from last year. But it also sharply grew its verified circulation last year, which publisher Steven Grune called “a very conscious strategy” to reach subscribers in the magazine’s demographic in doctor’s offices and salons.
This week, the magazine announced a new home line at KMart and Sears, following brand extensions that have included quilts at QVC, furniture at Lane, and food products at Heritage. Up next: a multicity road show to pitch it to advertisers. — Irin Carmon
BLACK OUT: After four years at BlackBook magazine, Elizabeth Sulcer is leaving her job as fashion director. A successor has not been named yet. Sulcer will now focus more on freelance projects, magazines and outside clients, such as BCBG, where she has been consulting. But Sulcer is not severing her ties completely with BlackBook, telling WWD she plans to style future celebrity covers of the magazine. — Amy Wicks
MOVING ON: A top lieutenant of Jann Wenner departed Wenner Media on Friday: Gary Armstrong, Wenner’s chief marketing officer and a 10-year employee of the company. A Wenner spokesman confirmed the move. Armstrong’s departure comes after Wenner’s marketing department was restructured so the marketing teams reported directly to the publishers of Wenner’s individual magazines, instead of Armstrong. Wenner is the publisher of Us Weekly, Men’s Journal and Rolling Stone. Armstrong joined Wenner from Condé Nast, where he held various positions on the business side at Vanity Fair and Mademoiselle. — Stephanie D. Smith