Shhhhhh! Hallmark Tests Publishing
Hallmark was quietly rolled out about a month ago in 350 Hallmark Gold Crown stores (10% of the overall total) and on newsstands, with 100,000 copies printed. It becomes the second major brand extension for the company, which launched its Hallmark Channel cable network into homes two years ago. The channel now reaches 100 million households, 50 million in the U.S.
Hallmark spokesperson Linda Odell, who says that the company intended to test the magazine without much ado, seems both encouraged and a little taken aback by all the interest in the fledgling title. "We don't have a press release," she quips. "We haven't announced anything and we're not behaving like a launch." Nonetheless, she acknowledges that the publication was developed over the last 18 months and that the company has partnered with a publishing firm (which she declines to identify) to produce it.
Not surprisingly, given Hallmark's other offerings, the magazine is aimed at women at all stages of life. "It's more intended for a particular psychographic profile - women for whom relationships really matter - than a demographic one," she explains. "It's about connecting and furthering relationships, whether with friends or family or whoever. It's not a 'fix your home' type magazine."
The first issue offers content that wouldn't seem out of place in several other women's magazines. The cover story surveys "Best Friends: Real Women Tell What Keeps Them Close, Year After Year," while other features include "Making Family Memories," "Plant the Simplest Herb Garden" and a look at artist Marjolein Bastin, who designs a line of nature-themed Hallmark cards. The stories adhere to the post-USA Today publishing model, with few exceeding two pages in length.
Advertisers in the first issue include Sony, General Motors, American Airlines, L'Oréal and a host of Hallmark-related entities (Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Chocolatier). Odell says it is "way, way too early" to discuss any ad-related issues and politely declined to make the magazine's publisher available for an interview.
As for the test run, the company is eschewing formal research about consumer response to the magazine in favor of compiling what Odell calls "anecdotal responses," like reader comments on subscription cards. "All we're trying to find out is whether people are interested in a magazine bearing the Hallmark name," she says.
The company has no time frame for a decision on whether to move forward with Hallmark.