March 16, 2015 Last Updated 2:12 pm

Meredith takes over production of Martha Stewart Living, downgrades digital edition to a replica

Meredith promised move would be invisible to readers, but digital subscribers immediately notice the difference as digital edition is converted into a replica of the print magazine

In October of last year Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced that it has entered into a ten year deal with Meredith Corporation to handle the business side of the Martha Stewart magazine business – and while the deal began November 1, the long lead times of major consumer magazines means that the newest digital edition is the first to reflect the changes. Beginning with the April issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine for iPad the issues have gone from a native digital edition to a replica edition.

MSL-noticeSince the app has been built using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, it was not necessary to release an app update to make the change. Instead, there is a notice that appears upon opening the issue that tries to put a positive spin on the changes:

“Beginning with the April issue, Martha Stewart Living Digital Edition will have a new streamline format more in line with the print magazine,” the notice states. “We have eliminated live video, audio and other interactive features, but each issue will still deliver all the great stories and ideas you love, along with handy web links, at your fingertips.”

Nice try, but readers so far aren’t buying it, slamming the changes inside iTunes. And no wonder, the new version does not fit the screen of the iPad, coming up short – that means that not only are all print pages shrunk down for the digital edition, but they don’t even look right. Features that have modular ads on editorial pages were, in the past, reformatted to make sure the editorial fit the entire screen, now they remain only part of the page. The reader is forced to use pinch-to-zoom throughout the magazine.

“This used to be one of my favorite magazines to read on my iPad, not anymore!” states one of the most recent reader reviews. “Starting with the April issue, the pages don’t even fill the whole iPad screen. You have to pinch to make the text larger and even then it’s extremely hard to read because of the horrible font. It looks like a low quality scan and is pretty much impossible to be able to read it. This new change means Martha Stewart Living magazine has gone from one of the best to the worst. The upside is I’ll have more storage space on my iPad because I will no longer have to download the low quality scans of this magazine and will just wait until the issues come in the mail.”

MLS-comparison-580

Left: April replica edition – Right: March edition

The changes are pretty apparent the minute one starts to compare the March and April issues: the newest issue is misused, its table of contents is spread over two pages (and not very attract at that), and editor’s opening column features fonts that are way too small and the editorial copy does not take up the full screen as it had in the past.

The reason for the agreement with Meredith was likely to trim costs and have Meredith handle ad sales. From the advertising standpoint the move makes sense as MSLO did not have a whole portfolio of titles in which to lure advertisers. But from a design perspective, this is a major step back in quality.

“Our editorial team can focus entirely on what we do best: the creation of inspirational, original, practical, useful and trusted content for our superb publications and digital properties,” said Martha Stewart said at the time the agreement with Meredith was announced.

“The change will be invisible to the consumer,” Stephen M. Lacy, Meredith’s chairman and chief executive, said at the time. That has proved to not be true, at least as far as digital readers are concerned.

Despite the complaints of digital readers, the move to Meredith may still prove a boon to the magazine’s digital numbers. With its last publisher’s statement MSL reported only 52,251 digital subscribers, down from over 75K a year ago. Also, the magazine only sold 1,733 digital single copy sales.

With the move to Meredith the magazine may now start selling more single copy digital editions through Next Issue Media, the unlimited digital magazine service of which Meredith is one of the original partners. Both Time Inc. and Hearst have both reported increased single copy sales of digital editions in their most recent publisher’s statements. Both Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings began appearing in Next Issue’s apps in January of this year.

  • John 3 years ago

    Well, I think the point is “digital” is really painful to do and brings no visible benefit to the publisher… Since some of those know that more than half of their readers would be better served with a PDF Replica, let’s start drawing conclusions.

    It’s no use complaining about Martha Stewart Living going Replica, it’s just another example of magazine-apps’ failure… It’s high time you discuss this failure, guys. Everyone in the industry has been discussing it for a while now. Even Adobe knows it (hint: FastCo’s new app)….