Martha Stewart Living Year in Review: 2013

What a difference a year makes! And in the world of magazine publishing, that old adage holds doubly true. For Martha Stewart Living (MSL) magazine 2013 was a pretty steady year, with the exception of a few very bold and significant changes, which you can read about below.The first change came in the summer when the magazine issued a combined July/August issue. This was the first year since 2000 that the magazine did not publish monthly issues. (Going forward, the January/February issues will be combined as well, reducing its annual circulation from twelve issues to ten.) To mark the change, MSL revamped its design for the summer issue, adding new columns, removing others and altering the layouts to reflect a more modern sensibility. You can read the details of these changes by clicking here.
The second big change for 2013 was the addition of Everyday Food supplements to five of its subscriber issues. MSL cancelled the newsstand and subscription distribution of Everyday Food magazine in 2012 but kept the brand alive by issuing small, brochure-like inserts to several subscriber issues of MSL. These inserts were not available on newsstands. However, there is a special edition of Everyday Food planned for newsstand release in the spring of 2014.
Lastly, there was the somewhat-sudden but not terribly surprising resignation of Pilar Guzmán as the editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Living last summer. She took a senior editorial position at Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Replacing her is Eric Pike, the executive creative director of the company - a post he still maintains in addition to his duties as editor-in-chief of Living. Many readers of the magazine were pleased by Eric's appointment to the role, given his two-decades of experience with the company's brand.
Overall, I've been quite impressed by how Martha Stewart Living is evolving. There are certainly things I miss about the older issues but I am more often impressed by innovation and a sense of moving forward than I am of a nostalgic grip on the past. I think Martha Stewart Living struggled quite a lot in 2012 to find a new voice for itself. Pilar Guzmán's changes to the magazine were fast and numerous but she ended up doing a great job, I think, of updating the magazine to become more relevant to a modern (younger) audience of readers. After a somewhat lackluster roster of issues in 2012, it was this year's issues that really saw the evolution take splendid form. I know that there are many readers out there - particularly longtime readers of the magazine - who disagree with me and feel that the changes were too severe, that the core values have been lost somewhere along the way. I was one of those naysayers last year and found the changes hard to take at first. I think in time, however, the changes will prove themselves to be benefitial to the Martha Stewart brand as it continues to evolve. I've taken photos below of the magazine, open to some of my favourite pages of the year. I love the striking layouts and the very clean presentation of ideas and instruction. 
There were only two special issues in 2013: Cakes & Cupcakes, which was issued last February, and a new Halloween issue, which was released in September. Two special issues a year seems to be the new standard. Several years ago the company released as many as six special issues a year (yes, six!) but with a publishing industry showing increasing signs of stress and a company that is trying hard to get itself out of the red, two issues seems quite generous. Both of these issues are great collector's items. Cakes & Cupcakes is a compilation of the greatest cake and cupcake recipes from the magazine. The Halloween issue is filled with new content with some 'best of'' ideas from past issues as well. Next year, as mentioned above, there will be a new Everyday Food special issue on newsstands May 5th and yet another Halloween issue on stands on August 25th.
Choosing a favourite issue and a least favourite issue is always kind of hard because I really am thankful for each issue that comes out. Last year I wasn't able to choose because I simply didn't feel like playing that game. Instead, I looked back at past issues of the magazine, month by month, and selected my favourite issues from years gone by. I'm feeling a bit more invigorated this year and in the spirit of good competition I will do my duty and give out some prizes. So, without further adieu, here are the picks for my favourite issue of the year and my least favourite issue of the year, as well as my favourite cover of the year, my favourite craft project of the year and my favourite Good Thing of the year.


Anonymous said...

Although it seems that there is TMI nowadays, LIVING can be grateful for your comments. I learn much from them.

Rowaida said...

Beautiful post Andrew. I agree with you and admire your opinion

Kenn said...

I thought it was a pretty good year for Living. My favorite issue of the year, hands down, was the October issue. It took me a while to warm up to the numerous changes that were made throughout the year, but I think Living is on the right track once again.

Bob said...

The Halloween cover was a hit visually for me.

Brian Utz said...

I loved the kitchen wisdom editions for thanksgiving and the other one over the summer. Very excellent videos for the iPad platform

Theresa Graham said...

I love everything Martha .
I own my own collection of the entire set of her magazines from first issue and glad that it will continue in 2014 !!!

Mally O'Brien said...

My favorite cover was the April issue. And, loved the content as well.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated that the latest issues have had more content on Martha herself. I really enjoyed the info on beekeeping, and in the Dec issue, prepping for Martha's party.