Category Archives: gael towey

MS Living Editor-in-Chief, Pilar Guzman, is Hired Away by Conde Nast

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Word today that Pilar Guzman, the editor-in-chief (EIC) of MSLO’s flagship magazine, “Martha Stewart Living”, has been hired away by Conde Nast, to serve as EIC of that company’s “Conde Nast Traveler” magazine. Guzman was promoted to EIC of “Martha Stewart Living” magazine in early 2011. (You can read the transcript of a conversation between Martha herself and Ms Guzman that appeared on Martha’s blog here.)

Given the changes that have recently taken place at MSLO and specifically, with the magazine–which has essentially shifted its focus away “lifestyle/fine living” to one of “cooking and crafts/instructional”, it is no wonder that we have seen the departures of some key higher-level executives from MSLO. Long-time design visionary, Gael Towey, and CEO Lisa Gersh both departed in late 2012.

It was announced that another long-time Martha Stewart employee, (Creative Director) Eric Pike, would takeover EIC responsibilities at “Martha Stewart Living” magazine. If interested, you can take a tour of Eric’s home here.

From the AdWeek article on Pilar Guzman’s departure (as is the above photograph):

Guzman is also one half of a publishing power couple: Her husband, Chris Mitchell, was the vp, publisher of Traveler until 2011, and now holds the same title at GQ.

In a statement, Guzman praised the magazine’s “engaging features, thoughtful advice and stunning visuals” and added that she looked forward to “drawing upon the insights and vision of the company’s artistic director Anna Wintour to catapult this legendary brand” -–perhaps a signal that Traveler could be the next title to get the Wintour treatment.

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Introducing the Redesigned Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Introducing the Redesigned Martha Stewart Living Magazine

In yesterday’s New York Times, in an article on Martha and her company’s response to their own sluggish revenues, Martha helped unveil the redesigned Martha Stewart Living magazine. From the photograph that accompanied the article, and a quote attributed to the magazine’s editor in chief, Pilar Guzman, it would appear “the days of 1,000 word front-of-book stories are over.”

A photograph of the magazine’s cover (below) shows a heavy focus on cooking and recipes, which matches nicely the focus of Martha’s current television presence, now solely her “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School” on PBS, on which she demonstrates various cooking techniques.

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Hard to tell the extent of the changes from just these photographs, but it sure looks very “how-to”, doesn’t it?  This step-by-step approach to presenting recipes is reminiscent of the content once found in the company’s “Everyday Food Magazine”, shuttered in late 2012. An absence of editorial, and a shift to cooking-only content, would also explain the recent departure of long-time design guru and legend, Gael Towey. (We FOMs miss you, Gael!)

FOMs: What do you think of the changes? To you, does this make Martha Stewart Living a more attractive magazine? Does this change the way you feel about Martha Stewart, the brand?

From the New York Times article:

“We understand that people are coming for short, consumable bites of information,” said Joseph Lagani, the company’s chief revenue officer. “People are not spending an hour with you. They’re there to get something.”

The redesign represents a large shift for Ms. Stewart, who built her reputation and her company largely on the strength of her cut-no-corners approach to cooking and crafts.

“I don’t want to retire,” Ms. Stewart said as she sat in a conference room framed by views of the Hudson River. “We’re trying to help figure it out. I don’t think it’s anything to run away from. I’m not banging my head against a stone wall here.”

In part, the redesign is an attempt to hang on to the magazine’s readers and artisans ages 18 to 34 who have become loyal fans. And like many publishers, the company is betting that video can help solve the online advertising riddle.

“That approach of putting cooking techniques near our recipes in video form has done really well,” Mr. Lagani said, “and many of our advertisers want to be part of that.”

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Martha vs. Macy’s: Judge Orders Mediation, NY Times Article on Why the Case Matters

Martha in Court

Yesterday, the New York Times had an article on the subject underlying the current court case between Macy’s and MSLO: that it is essentially “a schoolyard fight between two boys — the chief executives of Macy’s and J. C. Penney — over the most popular girl on the playground.”

If you have been following MSLO lately, you would not be blamed for worrying about the current state of the company–the stock price has plummeted and stabilized at the low end, the company is heavily vested in traditional media (which is undergoing much tumult industry-wide) and has suffered layoffs, it has all but lost its television presence, and there is unsettled leadership (former CEO Lisa Gersh stepped down after only five months at the helm). The one fiscal bright spot at the company of late has been its merchandising. Simply, Martha is still seen in the eyes of the public as an arbiter of good taste and high quality, and most importantly, consumers trust her. If Martha says it’s a good thing–you can be sure it’s a good thing.

It is Martha’s reputation for producing good products that the two retail giants–Macy’s and JC Penney’s–are hoping to leverage in their stores. Indeed, embattled JC Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson’s job may depend on his Martha Stewart-anchored plan to resuscitate that company’s housewares department. And, as the Associated Press reported:

“[Macy’s CEO Terry] Lundgren said Macy’s has spent 40 percent of its overall marketing on the Martha Stewart brand and other labels in the home area, even though the home category represents 17 percent of total sales. That’s because even though the home area is typically slow turning, it drives shoppers to the store. “I need the Martha Stewart business to be exclusive,” Lundgren said. “I don’t have a substitute.”

The judge ordered the three companies into mediation on Friday, in an attempt to have them resolve the issues themselves without a court-ordered judgement. So, even as the courtroom drama continues, one thing is for certain: the Martha Stewart brand is still as strong as ever in the eyes of consumers. And that is most definitely a good thing for MSLO.

Check out this very flattering quote from the New York Times article :

It is easy to forget that Ms. Stewart altered the way that people live by decoupling class and taste. Part of the reason that she seems embattled — her media empire is shrinking fast — is that she won her corner of the culture war. When you go into Target or Walmart and see a sage green towel that is soft to the touch, it may not carry her brand, but it reflects her hand. Her tasteful touch — in colors, in cooking, in bedding — is now ubiquitous; she just doesn’t get to cash all the checks anymore.

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MSLO Chief Creative Officer Gael Towey Departs

Hours ago, Gael Towey posted the above photo on Instagram, along with the following statement: “Almost finished packing. It has been an amazing 21 years.” In case you don’t already know, Gael Towey has been with with Martha almost since the beginning, serving as Art Director from 1990-1996, Design Director from 1996-1997, Executive Vice President, Art and Style and Creative Director from 1997-2001, and Senior Executive Vice President and Creative Director from 2001-2005. Since 2005, she has served as MSLO’s Chief Creative Officer. To say that Gael’s has been the primary influence on the elegant visual style that has defined the Martha Stewart brand for over 20 years is an understatement. As I described her in an earlier post, Gael is a design goddess–and I’m certain all FOMs join me in wishing for her the very best on her next adventure. (A side note: Gael is married to Stephen Doyle, the designer of the Martha Stewart brand logo. You can read more about the process of creating Martha’s logo here. It’s fascinating.)

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