Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia appears to have found a solution for its struggling magazine business: hand it over to another publisher. Today, MSLO announced it is outsourcing business-side operations for Martha Stewart Living to Meredith Corp., the Iowa-based publisher of women’s service titles like Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.
As part of the 10-year licensing deal effective Nov. 1, Meredith will take on all sales and marketing, circulation, production and other non-editorial functions for Martha Stewart Living, Martha Stewart Weddings and MarthaStewart.com. Meredith will begin delivering Living starting with its February 2015 issue.
According to a New York Times report, Meredith will absorb all business-side employees of the Martha Stewart titles, while the magazines’ editorial operation will remain in MSLO’s New York headquarters.
“This is a winning arrangement for both companies and their respective shareholders, as well as advertising clients and consumers alike,” Meredith chairman and CEO Stephen M. Lacy said in a statement. “The change will be invisible to the consumer.”
The Times also noted that, as part of the agreement, “the quality of the magazines will not be altered, meaning Meredith cannot even print the magazines with a lower-quality paper stock.”
Stewart explained in the statement that the deal will allow the magazines’ editorial team to “focus entirely on what we do best: the creation of inspirational, original, practical, useful and trusted content for our superb publications and digital properties.”
Despite continued praise for Living’s editorial content—the magazine was a finalist for two National Magazine Awards this year, and won a General Excellence award in 2013—MSLO’s publishing division has struggled in recent years, losing $1.75 million in the second quarter of 2014. At the flagship title, ad pages were down nearly 23 percent through September, according to Media Industry Newsletter, while the brand’s total audience dropped 7 percent between August 2013 and 2014, per the MPA’s Magazine Media 360 Brand Audience Report.
Circulation, at least, remained steady at about 2 million in the first half of 2014. Through the deal with Meredith, MSLO said it expects its operating income to improve by as much as $10 million to $15 million.