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SHIFTING SHELTER: During the past two years, a handful of digital-only shelter magazines have launched, but none of them has received as much press as Lonny, co-founded by former Domino editor Michelle Adams. Six months ago, The New York Times reported on the “thriving online shelter magazine industry,” noting that Lonny was attracting big-name advertisers such as Bloomingdale’s and Room & Board. The piece reported that Curbed, a real estate blog, referred to Lonny as the “Grande Doyenne.”
How quickly things change in the Internet world. These days, sources say, the site has fallen on tougher times. Insiders said Lonny is not publishing now and has put its staff on furlough. “They are looking for a cash infusion,” said one source. Adams declined to comment, noting she’s in negotiations. She added that an “exciting announcement” is coming in the next few weeks.
Lonny’s troubles could be unique to the site. Other shelter titles, both online and in print, are said to be holding strong despite the economy. Rue, Lonny’s biggest online rival, is profitable, said co-founder Crystal Gentilello. Rue celebrated its one-year anniversary in September. “We have eight people on the internal team, but for each issue we work with 25 to 45 contributors on a contract basis,” she said, listing advertisers such as Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. “We believe in steady and sustainable growth. We haven’t had outside funding.”
Among print magazines, Veranda was up 17.2 percent last year in ad pages, and the momentum continues this year, up 20 percent through February. Elle Decor ended the year up 5 percent in paging and led the shelter category in total ad pages. House Beautiful finished the year flat, but the February issue is up 13 percent (the title also just made Adweek’s Hot List). The first issue of the year for Traditional Home is up 35 percent in ad pages, with 52 for the February/March issue versus 38 in the same issue a year ago. According to Media Industry Newsletter, Architectural Digest was up 9 percent in ad pages last year to 911.
Advertisers are slowly coming back, but newsstand remains a challenge. During the first half, Elle Decor reported an uptick of 5.8 percent in single-copy sales, Veranda was up 3.2 percent at newsstand and House Beautiful was up 2 percent. Two other titles reported sharp declines: Single-copy sales for Architectural Digest fell 14 percent, and Traditional Home reported a 25 percent drop in newsstand sales.