6.30.2015

Remembering: Everyday Food Special Issues

With the new Everyday Food special issue out on newsstands this week, I thought I'd look back at the previous Everyday Food special issues. It occurred to me that some of you may not be aware of them. None of these issues were part of a subscription and were only available for a limited time at the newsstand. The first one was issued in 2006. It was a special holiday cookie issue with recipes not contained in any other Everyday Food issue. The following year, it was all about holiday baking. It was not until 2011 that the third special issue was released. This one was devoted to summer recipes and was unique in that it was a full-size issue, unlike its digest-sized cousins. Finally, longtime subscribers were gifted a special Everyday Food Index: a reference for the first four years of the magazine's publication. It was never sold to the public. This is very rare today. These issues can occasionally be found on eBay. Watch for the new Everyday Food special issue on stands this week!

Good Thing: A Beach-Stone Basket

Every summer as a boy, my parents would take us to the seaside. Whether it was Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Florida or Maine, I can scarcely recall a summer when I didn't have an adventure with my family by the sea. My father is something of a beachcomber and we would always find room in our trunk for a little bucket of the beautiful stones that he would find on his walks along the beach. Over the years, with more and more trips, this collection began to expand. Several years ago my parents decided to place all of their collected beach stones in a basket and display them in their living room. In addition to the places mentioned above, the basket now contains beach stones from New York, Scotland, England, Puerto Rico and France.
Tip: Look for stones with unusual markings and details. To enhance these marking, my father applied a light coating of varnish to some of the rocks to help them maintain that shiny, wet look. This drastically improves the appearance of the markings and special details. Once coated, let the stones dry on a wire rack for at least 24 hours before placing them in any sort of vessel.

6.22.2015

Martha Stewart American Made Awards 2015

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2015 Martha Stewart American Made Awards, an initiative begun by Martha in 2012 to honour American makers who are turning their dreams into businesses. Each year, Martha and the editors at Martha Stewart Living magazine honour makers, small-business owners, and creative entrepreneurs in the fields of crafts, design, food, and style. These makers are recognized for their dedication to creating beautiful, quality products and building successful business and communities.
Five-hundred finalists will be chosen from the nominations and 10 winners will be subsequently chosen by the editors, including one Audience Choice Winner, who will be voted by the audience as the grand-prize winner. Prizes include $10,000 towards the growth of the business, a trip for two to attend the American Made Summit in New York City, hosted by Martha Stewart and her team of editors, a feature in Martha Stewart Living magazine and a chance to become part of the American Made Market, with advertising and direct links to your business from marthastewart.com.

Click here to learn more about the American Made Awards or to nominate yourself!

Martha Stewart Café Online Store Opens

Get your credit cards ready! The online shop at the Martha Stewart Café is now open for business, with shipping to addresses in the United States. (There is free shipping on orders over $75.) Now you can buy Martha's favourite teas and coffee blends, as well as aprons and barista caps, and have them sent directly to your home. The café also began selling gift cards last week - perfect for the coffee lover (or Martha lover!) in your life. Click here to see what's on offer at the online store and start shopping!

SOLD! MSL Bought By Sequential Brands Group

It was announced this morning that Sequential Brands Group has, indeed, purchased Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for approximately $353-million, bringing an end to the independent status of the media and merchandising conglomerate founded by Martha Stewart in 1997. Martha Stewart herself will become a "significant shareholder" in a new public holding company that will be set up by Sequential Brands for Martha Stewart Living. She will also be nominated to serve on its board of directors. The deal is half cash, half stock. According to a news release, Martha will "continue to be an integral part of the brand she founded" and will maintain her title as Chief Creative Officer of her brand.

Comments from Martha regarding the sale: 

"This is a transformational merger for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the company I founded in 1997. This merger is positioned to further the growth and expansion of the unique Martha home and lifestyle brand. In 1991, I started a magazine, Martha Stewart Living, which was the first of its kind. Out of our groundbreaking editorial content grew an influential brand which quickly evolved into other media, merchandising and digital platforms and products which have helped consumers, worldwide, live better, more fulfilling lives. With our media business operations now successfully transitioned to Meredith, we now have the opportunity to tap into Sequential's expertise and resources to expand our merchandising business both domestically and abroad. The Sequential team is smart, hardworking, and understands the power and limitless opportunity of the Martha Stewart brand and its formidable design, editorial and marketing teams. I'm looking forward to working with them."

Yehuda Shmidman, CEO of Sequential, commented:

"Martha Stewart's impact around the world is staggering, and the empire she founded is unmatched in its industry. In fact, research shows that the Martha Stewart brand has 96% awareness among women in the U.S. and 7 out of 10 women say that Martha has and does influence the way they think about, organize, and manage their homes. Looking ahead, we believe that we can leverage our global activation platform at Sequential in partnership with Martha and her team to develop the next chapter of growth for the Martha Stewart brand. We are honored to have this opportunity and thrilled to be working together with Martha Stewart."

The deal will not be completely finalized until later this year.

6.19.2015

Will Martha Sell Her Company?

Wall Street is abuzz with talk that Sequential Brands Group, a company that specializes in acquiring and licensing big-name brands, is close to a deal to buy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Insider, The Huffington Post and CNBC have all reported over the last two days that a special committee is in talks to sell MSLO to Sequential Brands Group, but there has not yet been any confirmation from either side. Stock in Martha Stewart's company surged on the news by 26% on Wednesday.
So, would this be a good thing for Martha Stewart and her company? The short answer is, yes. The company has not posted a significant profit in years and with declining revenue comes declining potential for growth and development. Martha's company was once worth over $2-billion. Today, it is worth approximately $400-million - a fraction of its value when it first went public in 1999. Over the last few years, we've seen the company make some very difficult choices: shutting down several of its publications, stopping production of its daily television show, cancelling its radio programs, laying off staff and outsourcing its publication operations to Meredith Corporation.

Merchandising is the only area of the company that has remained strong, but even within that category there have been stumbling blocks; furniture lines that never materialized, a litigious battle between JC Penney and Macy's regarding rights to Martha's home merchandise lines, and various product lines at The Home Depot that were pulled from store shelves, such as the Martha Stewart paint line.

By selling, Martha would be giving her company a second chance. Martha owns 49% of the company's stock and, as the non-executive chairman and controlling shareholder, has final say on what happens to the company she built from the ground up. The sale itself would likely send stock in MSLO surging to heights it hasn't seen in years, making Martha an even wealthier woman than she already is. It would also guarantee - at least in principle - a steady ride ahead for a company that has been treading a bumpy road for far too long with new corporate overseers and managers expanding licensing agreements to ensure the Martha Stewart monicker survives.

Martha would still likely maintain controlling interest and would certainly be very involved at the company - as would most of her teams in merchandising, publishing and broadcasting. My only concern would be with quality control. The idea of a giant company selling Martha's name and face to any manufacturer who wanted to buy it is a bit disconcerting for a longtime fan, such as myself, who enjoys the "specialness" of the Martha Stewart name and brand. I don't want Martha Stewart Happy Meals. I don't want Martha Stewart hair dye. The fear is that the brand will become diluted through endless (re: meaningless) licensing deals and, in turn, cheapened through ubiquity. I have always trusted Martha's eye for standards, quality and good taste. I would not want to see that disappear.

And so, we wait...

There has been no confirmation of any actual sale, although it is looking more and more like that is the direction the company will be taking: confronting its shortcomings by letting a much larger and perhaps more-capable company manage its affairs and lead it to profitability. What are your thoughts? Should Martha sell her company?

6.18.2015

New Everyday Food Special Issue

Fans of Everyday Food are in for a nice surprise: a full-size special issue of the now defunct magazine will hit newsstands on July 1! The company had slated this magazine for release this time last year but shelved it at the last minute. It looks like they've reconsidered and are going ahead with it, which makes me so happy! This will be the second full-size special issue of Everyday Food, which was originally published in digest form, and the fourth Everyday Food special issue in total. Based on the cover, it looks like all the summer favourites are covered: burgers, kebabs, tacos, salads, ice pops, fruit desserts, cocktails, farmers' markets, festivals, fairs, food trucks - and of course, hot dogs! I can't wait to get this issue!