Monday, November 5, 2007

Say It Isn't So!


So, as if my weekend wasn't bad enough, I just learned today from two different sources that House and Garden magazine is folding! Conde Nast is closing the magazine due to the departure of the editor and chief, Dominique Browning, and poor ad sales . I'm really sad. House and Garden has improved so much recently and is such a wonderful design resource and such a beautiful magazine. They always featured the best interiors and photography. If any magazine should close, it's the boring House Beautiful! House and Garden has closed before and been brought back to life so maybe if we all complain they might change their minds. If not, rest in peace House and Garden. Sniff, sniff.

45 comments:

The Peak of Chic said...

I know! I just heard! I'm so sad. It was a great magazine with such a wonderful history.

Habitually Chic said...

Well, at least they went out with a bang. The Gwyneth Paltrow issue was their best selling issue ever. Looks like maybe the internet really is the future for design information.

The Peak of Chic said...

And another thing- they just had that huge Design Week where they hosted a TON of events!

Habitually Chic said...

Peak, that Design Week seemed like a good idea but in reality I wonder how much money they lost on it. It was huge and not all events were sold out. It's such a shame. I hope there is still a chance they can come back. It has been known to happen. Fingers crossed!

CLFan said...

from the press release (NOTE THE SILVER LINING AT THE END)

House & Garden magazine will cease publication with its December issue, it was announced today by Charles H. Townsend, President & CEO of Condé Nast Publications. The website, houseandgarden.com, will also be shut down.
"House & Garden has a long and venerable history within Condé Nast," Mr. Townsend said. "This has been a difficult decision to come to but we feel it is one that must be made at this time. I would like to thank Dominique Browning and the entire staff for their award-winning efforts throughout the years. House and Garden's intelligent and graceful editorial attracted a loyal readership. We were proud to publish it.

"With the unexpected departure of the publisher of the magazine, we decided to take a serious look and re-evaluate the title," Mr. Townsend said. "Our investment in House & Garden throughout the years has been substantial and we no longer believe it is a viable business investment for the company."

Condé Nast will continue to be a leading publisher in the home and lifestyle category with magazines including Architectural Digest, Domino, and Vogue Living (which will increase its frequency in 2008).

Habitually Chic said...

Thanks CL Fan! I am excited by the prospect of more Vogue Living but I must say, I loved the photography of House and Garden. It was so crisp and clean. Vogue Living sometimes has too many small photos and not enough full images. But I guess at this point, I'll take what I can get!

CLFan said...

P.S.

I doubt that Dominique's exit has little if anything to do with the magazine folding. (As an example, note how Marth Stewart Living kept chugging right along even while she was in prison.) Magazines do not cease publishing simply because the editor leaves. There is always an executive editor ready to take the helm and anyway, I'm sure there are at least 2 dozen people in NYC who would be well qualified to fill the spot. No, this was a business decision. Big publishers like Conde Nast that hold dozens of magazines in their portfolio often make business decisions based on the entire picture. Why they decided to dump this one, I don't know. Domino is doing extremely well for them. I have a feeling that has something to do with it. There was a boom in shelter books when the economy was good (oh Bill Clinton, how I miss you). Now there is a natural weeding out that's happening. This is just part of it.

I can tell you that the people who work at HG are probably crying in the halls right now, they're talking to HR and getting their severance packages. My guess is other than a few people at the top, nobody knew about it.

As we speak, they probably have tons of great stories on their desks right now that will never see the light of day.

Magazines like HG plan at least 6-9 months ahead of time. They also keep stuff in the vault for a rainy day. Hopefully some of this stuff can be passed off to Vogue Living.

Mrs. Blandings said...

This is truly horrible news. I've said before I feel about these shelter magazines like a feel about my children - I love them all for different reasons. I adored Browning's editorial style and the book itself was consistently good. So far, Vogue Living is a disappointment - the features in Vogue are better. This truly breaks my heart.

bill said...

& this is why I LOVE your blog...you INFORM me! My subscription always was on & off, sometimes I liked it but I wouldn't always renew. & you are so right that it should be House Beautiful instead...I liked HB until their recent reno. I think editors have a ton to do w/it, I notice when a new editor starts...perfect example HB. If Margaret Russell goes or Elle Decor starts to stink, I'll kill myself.

Habitually Chic said...

CLFan, it was definitely not making a profit. I've heard that before.

My photographer friend who works for them has quite a few projects he shot that he now has to take to other magazines. My company had a great apartment that we designed shot a few months ago that will never see the light of day unless another magazine picks it up. So depressing!

Habitually Chic said...

Mrs. Blandings, I was very disappointed by the last Vogue Living. First of all, why put a spring looking cover on a Fall/Winter issue??? And it always makes me feel like I need glasses. I can never see anything in their tiny photos.

I really feel like House and Garden had finally hit their stride so it's such a shame they are folding now. Let's just hope the other shelter magazines pick up the slack!

Habitually Chic said...

Thanks Bill! I feel the same way about Elle Decor! They are the last good title standing! I hate the new bigger House Beautiful too. It seems like they are trying to be Elle Decor but their magazine is so flimsy it just feels sad. It's not at all glossy and fabulous like Elle Decor and therefore should not be bigger. House Beautiful was only good when Marian McEvoy was the editor. I have all my old issues from her time at the helm.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't Dominque leaving that was the nail in the coffin, it was that the publisher left. Basically, they folded the mag, which is why Dom is now leaving the company.

Sorry to hear you find HB boring. As a contributor, I won't be back.

CLFan said...

Well guys, if you think you're sad, imagine how the people who work there are feeling. You're at your desk working on captions for the January issue when they suddenly pull you out to a meeting in the conference room. You notice the head of HR is sitting at the head of the table. Your heart sinks. Suddenly you go from being an editor at the prestigious HG to being a nobody with no paycheck. In short, it sucks.

When something is shot or written for a specific magazine, it's not so easy to shop it around to another publication. That's because magazines do different types of stories. An apartment shot for HG would never make it into the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, for example.

I make the following predictions:

Some interesting blogs will come out of this. (Shelterrific is run by editors from the defunct Budget Living.)

Vogue Living will improve.

Vogue will run some of the stories shot for HG.

Habitually Chic said...

Anonymous, I'm sure Dominique saw the writing on the wall and gave her notice. Anyone know where she's going or what she's going to do now???

Habitually Chic said...

CLFan, New York is a scary place to lose your job. I hope Vogue Living picks up some of the H&G employees but they are so snobby, you never know if that will happen.

It was amazing that Domino was able to come one the scene and have such great success. It's so hard to do these days. It will be interesting to see how Vogue Living will do with increased publication.

CLFan said...

Makes sense if the publiserh left. The publisher is the person in charge of the advertising sales. More than anything, that's what affects the success of a magazine.

Publishing companies like Conde Nast give package deals to advertisers. For example, if you're Ralph Lauren and buy a page in Vanity Fair, they'll throw in a page in HG at a discounted rate or even free. If HG did not have enough advertisers of its own then it could not succeed.

However, publishers like Conde Nast choose to keep magazines that are money losers anyway. Conde Nast owns the New Yorker for the prestige of it, not because it makes money. What they really should be dumping is PORTFOLIO, which has sucked from day 1.

And yes, HB is lame.

Bottom line though, Domino is doing very, very well. It's a very advertiser friendly magazine. In fact, it's an advertiser's wet dream. The magazine has a unique and fresh point of view and it really speaks to the younger demographic. So expect it to be around for a while.

Finally, there are a lot of things that come to play when it comes to putting out a magazine. It's not just the editor in chief's call. Many, many people are involved in the making of a magazine, including powerful people who don't know a damn thing about design or whatever else the magazine is about. Just because it's a pretty product doesn't mean that it wasn't made in Dilbert land.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

Bugger! I love HG (US). I almost prefer it to the UK one. Almost.
This is funny though, how large companies are more willing to court the larger middle (I'm being kind here) market by keeping Domino and axing the tonier HG. Hmm... I think it might be time to rethink my relationship with Conde Nast.

Anonymous said...

Someone likes HB. In a category that has been tanking on the newstand this year, HB is up 10% alongside AD and Veranda.

Habitually Chic said...

Anonymous, I think House Beautiful has definitely been improving. I just wish they hadn't increased it's size. I liked it the way it was. The shelter mag I really hate is AD. Talk about boring!

The Peak of Chic said...

I think House Beautiful has been doing a great job lately. It's been looking very fresh lately. It's sad for any of these big magazines, esp. those with illustrious histories, to fold.

Anonymous said...

I think that we all agree that it is very sad and shocking news that H&G has folded. It was really a great magazine but it just wasn't bringing in the cash. Dominique Browning had nothing to do with it one way or another. These magazines are businesses and driven by publishers.They are the ones who make such decisions as folding a magazine. If the truth be known,there are far better-- and nicer--editors out there than Dominique and anyone in the shelter magazine industry knows it. Some of you folks must have amnesia. H&G wasn't looking so great a few years back after Dominique came on board. The magazine became very copy heavy and photos dropped in size by about a third.Please take Dominique off the pedestal. She doesn't deserve it.It was not because of her but IN SPITE of her that the magazine finally turned around. As far as House Beautiful goes, I'm not sure how appropriate it is to compare it with H&G. The have two different target markets. Let's give HB it's due. It is amazing how far it has come in such a short time under Stephen Drucker's direction. And it's not only because of Stephen but the very talented staff he has gathered together under his wing. The reason for the new format was not to try to look like Elle Decor or any other magazine. The advantage of the larger format is that it can actually show more of the interior being shot as it is seen through the camera. In a standard format, the image that appears is compromised because it has to be cropped to fit the standard size page. If House Beautiful wasn't doing so incredibly well (up 10% in one year)then the publisher would not have spent the enormous amount of money to gift the magazine with such a format. How many shelter magazines have turned around as much as House Beautiful has in the period of one year? It's almost unheard of. Who knows, perhaps if they keep it up, HB will soon be printed on a heavier, slicker stock.But in any case, it will never compete with Elle Decor because HB isn't competing with Elle Decor for the same target audience. We will all mourn the loss of H&G but that's no reason to lash out at the other existing, successful shelter magazines that provide different things to different people.

Suzy said...

Wow, that is sad. It would be great to see more of Vogue Living, but I agree with you that H&G was getting better (although I'd only been reading for 18 months), and always had great photos. Sniff, sniff.

CLFan said...

Smell that folks? That's a whiff of art department arrogance coming fom Anon.

Anon-Habitually Chic and company admire Dominique because of her compelling column, which resonates with readers. They liked the magazine and her name IS/was at the top of the masthead, so naturally they're giving her the credit. They don't know how the sausage is made, so please, let them down easy! And they're not lashing out at HB, they're merely saying what they like. Note that they also don't like AD, which has a higher $$$ demo than any of these. So it's not about money or class.

Btw, when you say HB is "up 10%" in one year, what is that? Circ? Newsstand sales? Ad revenues? Just curious. Not hard to come up when you've been down in the pits. I'll have to check out the new format. There was a redesign a few years ago that was truly atrocious. I had a subscription at the time and literally took each issue from my mailbox, leafed through it and threw it away right then and there. It was a poor example of a magazine, never mind its intended audience. (It was so wrong on so many levels. My guess is some weasel at the top was responsible for this.)

Everyone-
If a magazine isn't printed on glossy paper, it's because the publisher is trying to cut costs. (Paper is VERY expensive.) One thing publishers will do is give subscribers the magazine printed on crappy paper and sell a version on the newsstands that's printed on nicer paper. (Magazines make more money from newsstand sales so subscribers are sometimes treated to an inferior product. Nice huh?)


Another way magazines cut costs is by cutting back on editorial pages. They'll run the same amount of ads as usual but they'll just give you less articles. If your favorite magazine is exhibiting any of these signs--watch out!


House of Beauty-Don't be mad at Conde Nast. Why not get mad at the advertisers? They're the ones who didn't support HG. If they had advertised, the magazine would still be around.

decorno.blogspot.com said...

H&G got soooooo much better the last 3 years. This is really sad news for shelter-mag obsessives. Now what? I have to hang out with Blueprint and AD? Hells no.

decorno.blogspot.com said...

On a serious note, I think what was so great about H&G is that it had a freshness, a crispness of design, photography and even style point of view that was unmatched.... Domino has the sort-of post-collegiate version of this feeling, but H&G features were fully realized and perfectly executed. A damn shame.

JRock said...

Wow, Clfan and Decorno, I couldn't have put it better!
I've been observing this and a few other blogs for awhile. (Habitually Chic most "habitually!") This is the first comment I've posted. I'm so disappointed too -- my husband was reading the WSJournel and shared the news. As I read the article, my 4yr. old daughter must've noted my sadness b/c she asked to see the article and whether the mag. was closing, and said compassionately, "well, I would just tell them not to close it." Wish it were that easy. I had settled into a perfect balance of shelter info. with H&G at the head. I didn't care for Domino initially and may check it out again if so many of you recommend. H&G just seem so much richer in depth, quality, amount of design/beautiful living info. I loved "At Home With" and the recently absent "Uncorked" sections. The articles are/were perfectly complemented by the amount and size of photos. And, while there was "green" talk, it didn't weigh the whole issue down, as in Dwell. (sorry) "Intelligent and elegant" exactly described H&G. If this was a mag. for the mature audience and the others appeal to a younger audience, then I prefer maturity... and I'm NOT old!
Lastly, anon, I don't get an ugly or snobby vibe from any of these postings but yours (at least the last anon posting). I feel, not the muddying of other mags., but the mourning of the one that fit a significant number of us so perfectly.
Dominique, I, too, enjoyed your articles. We wish you well and much success in the near future.

Anon2 said...

a few thoughts . . . .

Rumors have swirled for YEARS that H&G was going to close, they were moved out of 4 times sq which certainly kept those rumors afloat.
I wish Dominique well but there is the opinion that she was a large part of the problem at the magazine as it was losing so much money.

Despite the above I find it so so sad that H&G is closing. When it was good, it was great. Personally I HATED the Gwyneth story as the house was clearly decorated FOR the story and it looked that way.

P.o.C.—not to out you but the word on the street is that you are going to contribute to HB (congrats btw!). . . HB is making a conscientious decision to be more middle of the road. And while that is not really my taste, you can't help but notice how attractive the photography and layout of the houses are . . .I like that Drucker is giving the mag a direction.

THey have resurrected H&G before—let's all keep our fingers crossed they will do it again!!!

stljoie said...

Well, when I read Dominique's editorial about the lack of good customer service from top line appliance makers...something that needed to be said...I wondered how it would affect their advertizing.

Anonymous said...

CLFAN-Actually it is very hard to come up 10% when a magazine has slipped so far. Think about it. When a magazine changes editors, how can a new staff shoot film immediately on homes and in one month bring it around. It takes months to make an issue before it goes into print. It usually takes a good two years to pull out of that kind of nose dive.The fact that HB has come up so far so fast is amazing. I agree that there was an atrocious quality to HB in the past.But it has really pulled out of that pit and I think it's new editor deserves much credit for that. By the way, CLFAN, clearly, you're not lacking in any venom yourself. Everyone is entiled to his/her opinion on a blog. But that invites other opinions. Thus mine. By the way, I am neither in the art or weasel department at House Beautiful.In response to JR Rock: I mourn the loss of H&G as well. Please don't get me wrong on that point. I was simply-- (and perhaps too vehemently)-- defending the slam against HB because it has really come up several notches. And also, that it does not have the same target audience as H&G and therefore can't be compared with H&G.I think it's a great loss not to have H&G around anymore. Truly. I'm sorry if I gave any other impression in my defense of HB. I speak so bluntly because I happen to be in a position to be on the inside track at both H&G and HB.I love them both as I love two different friends of mine.I will sorely miss H&G.

Lyndsey said...

I really look forward to my H & G every month, probably more than any other magazine...I'm terribly disaapointed in their closing.

Does anyone know what magazines typically do for customers who have paid for an upcoming renewal and will not be receiving it? I recently paid for a renewal subscription to H & G that will not begin until next year, and I'm curious how Conde Nast, etc. typically handle this...

decorno.blogspot.com said...

Lyndsey, they usually just send you one of their other publications. When Cargo and Stuff folded, the publishers started sending Maxim and ESPN to my better half (he has as many guilty pleasure mags as I do, sad to say...)...

decorno.blogspot.com said...

HC -yes! AD is totally gross. It's nothing but palm trees, bad landscaping, overly tan people, and then Jennifer Post's snotty mug occasionally breaking up the pages of Mario Buatta vomiting chintz all over their damn pages. Oh - and gilded ANYTHING. Just kill me now.

As for House Beautiful, it feels cheap, you are right. It's the paper & the layout. It's just like 5 dangerous steps to feeling like the design (and taste-level) mess that is Better Homes & Gardens. HOWEVER, I will say that I do buy it occasionally because some of the features have been really good. Plus they have done a few paint/color stories recently that were worth hanging onto.

But I totally agree with you... we are now down to Domino and Elle Decor. Remember when Met Home rocked? This month's issue is the first in about 4 years that made me think it was time to subscribe again. It had some passion and complication... not the boxy/modern/wenge bullshit they have been feeding us since 2001.

Vogue Living would be great if it were anything like its Australian counterpart. Now THAT is a fine publication. But the US version is just Vogue with end tables. Totally messy and fashion-y and not like a great shelter mag... and by that, I mean, it's not novel-like in its ability to suck you in and make you feel THERE. Vogue Living US so far is just like US Weekly with furniture. I don't want to see how Jennifer Garner lives. Jennifer Garner has nothing new to say about design.

There has to be something in between Domino and Elle Decor that hasn't been fully realized yet... something with more content. For example, when New York magazine does features on real estate, it's this sort of anthropological/sociological study on people and money and shelter and all of that... if someone could take that intellectual element and mash it up with dashing homes and style and photography we'd have something. And maybe Dominique, with her hypnotically weird eyes (and amazing essays) could head it up. I woud read that.

franki durbin said...

oh how sad! I actually don't subscribe either, but i love thumbing through a copy here and again. So sad to see an iconic pub go down. :(

katiedid said...

Phew! Much to take in here. And I have to say that Anon and clfan have very interesting points. I must say I have to side with Anon regarding HB. It certainly has turned around and their format: interviews with designers to get their reasons for what they do, is not duplicated anywhere else. Their stories and photography have improved immensely since the previous editor (PU!) It seems that since clfan hasn't read or looked at HB in awhile that picking up a copy might be worthwhile.
Regarding HG, I am heartbroken. Between HG and Elle Decor, they were not surpassed in the shelter mag industry for class, style, and intelligent content. Domino is great in it's way, but isn't it really HG that we are all trying to get to when we grow up?

In recent defence of Metro Home, I am hoping they are turning around. The latest issue was far more interesting and diverse. I hope they keep it up.

With a magazine with such an illustrious history, I hope, hope, hope that HB with act like a Phoenix and rise from those ashes! I am not sure what I will do without it. :(

Anonymous said...

Hey Chic: Which is it? You HATE Vogue Living because you need glasses, the pictures are so small, and you HATE HB because the pictures are too big? Am I missing some great chic wisdom here?. Which is it big or small? Small or big? The lemmings need to know.

Anonymous said...

The only things I count as positives in the closing of House & Garden are: (1) I will never have to read "The Testy Tastemaker" column, and (2) I will never have to read Dominique Browning's navel-gazing, self-indulgent editor's page. I will, however, miss "House of Worship" and Martin Filler's honest, opinionated architectural criticism. House & Garden closed because it wasn't viable as a business opportunity any longer, according to Chuck Townsend, the Condé Nast CEO. As he said in an article in the Wall Street Journal on 6 November, the difficulty was simple: how to put a red magazine (House & Garden) into the black. It wasn't profitable, had never been profitable, and Townsend acknowledged that in the WSJ article. That's the bottom line. What's amazing is how long Condé Nast allowed it to be unprofitable and how long the editorial focus wandered and wavered. It had no particular identity.

Anonymous said...

Decorno obviously has a real axe to grind over Mario Buatta. Darling, what AD publishes of his is what it wants to publish of his. I'm truly offended by your constant use of the word "vomiting" to describe his abundant use of chintz. There are plenty of apartments and house he has done that are much less exuberant and less likely to offend your delicate sensibilities -- and which will likely never be published. Why be so snarky?

Anonymous said...

Because she doesn't realize, and apparently most here don't realize what AD is and what is stands for. Because AD has long articles that accompany their photos, it's "boring." I find it amusing that HC chooses to wax poetically about an apt. in AD all the while blasting how horrible it is. Which is it? You can't have it both ways. This month's issue is fantastic, imo. Compare this issue to HG's new issue and it's a joke. AD hasn't changed much over the years, in the same way the The New Yorker hasn't changed. It's not trend driven, it requires a certain knowledge of that which the Domino crowd lacks: the designers are originals, icons in their field, the ones that the Domino crowd claim to worship. Over the years, AD has consistently put out interesting architecture and design, art and the exotic. Thank God they haven't changed, haven't lessened their standards to attract people who think a designer like Barrie Benson has anything original to say. To slam Buatta is to slam the entire English design sensibility, which, too the Domino crowd claims to admire.l

magnaverde said...

If there's a silver lining--well, for me, anyway--to the sad news that H&G is closing, it's the fact that my reading everything I could find about it online led me first to Decorno & thence to here. Why I never came across either site before now, I can't say. At any rate, I'm glad I found this place.

BTW, I am totally in agreement on respect for Mario Buatta, both as a person and as an esthetic, even though my own tastes run more toward World of Interiors-style benign neglect. Then again, it was MB himself who said "Dust is a protective layer for fine furniture."

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the phrase "the Domino crowd"! It's so bitter and elderly.

Actual architects take AD about as seriously as Us Weekly. In the spirit of honesty, AD should change its name to "More Beach Homes of Aging Television Actors."

Anonymous said...

To Anon: Bitter? You really need to look in mirror, dear. "aging television actors?" tsk tsk

Actually, AD is one of the few shelter magazines that ever features anything at all about an architectually important house. Certainly Domino or HG never do.

As for the Domino crowd sounding elderly, in fact, it actually sounds snobby to me. Domino caters to a reader who only has dreams of that which the AD reader has already acquired.

Anonymous said...

"tsk tsk"--good comeback!

Anonymous said...

fact check: H&G is folding not because of the departure of its editor, but, as has accurately reported everywhere else, because of the departure of its publisher.

Nicole said...

Glad to hear from a fellow Dominique fan! Just found her on facebook, where she has all her latest articles and upcoming appearances! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dominique-Browning/402905210711?ref=ts

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