Martha Stewart Living

My tolerance for Martha Stewart swings like a pendulum: sometimes I can organize my closet or make crème brulee until I'm blue in the face, but oftentimes, to borrow her catchphrase from "The Apprentice," she "just doesn't fit in." Since I'm one of the 12 people that watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, Martha's version of "The Apprentice," I bought the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living to find out if I could endure the added Martha exposure.

Either my pendulum is on high for everything Martha, or this woman has staged a tremendous comeback (not counting the cancellation of "The Apprentice," which garnered an average of 6.5 million viewers).

The January issue of Martha Stewart Living marks the magazine's 15th anniversary, and as with most anniversary issues, there's a hearty supply of reflection, reminiscing and changes to pass around the table. Actually, there's only one change: the magazine's logo has received a much-needed facelift.

Diving headfirst into the pub, my first thought about this magazine was the attention to detail it effortlessly conveys--even when it comes to ad placement.

In Martha's column looking back on the past 15 years, there's a picture of the launch cover (chock full of pink copy) inside a pink box. The eBay ad on the adjoining page features a pink fuzzy "it." The pink eBay ad is nearly identical to the pink from the copy on the launch cover. This was no coincidence. It was a planned execution.

The feature story on crystal was also smart (but too long), given that it's the mag's 15th anniversary, and crystal is the traditional gift to give on said anniversary.

The issue also published a "Readers' Favorites" section, showcasing the most popular crafts (how to make strawberry pincushions), gifts (velvet ribbon belts), and recipes (brick-pressed sandwich) from the past 15 years.

Oftentimes, stellar photos outweighed the copy in many front-of-the-book pieces. Clivias, deemed easy-to care for indoor flowers, were likened to a house cat. "Indoors, it behaves like a tidy, self-sufficient cat, pleased to be noticed but needing no pampering." Here's hoping the writer doesn't have any pets of her own.

A clip-art craft segment in the magazine's craft section turns the magazine into a real-life project for the reader: a wallet guide made up of a tip calculator, calendar, and a ruler. Your mission, should you choose to grab a pair of scissors, paper, a glue stick, and laminating sheets, is to cut this page out, fold accordingly, glue, laminate, and place in wallet. Or you can download the guide online. Many of the crafts and recipes mentioned include URLs where readers can find additional information. This is a natural way for Martha to boost her online presence, which remains her Achilles heel.

Martha Stewart Living's monthly circulation has dropped slightly over the past year, from 2 million in 2004 to 1.8 million in 2005, according to MRI.

I'm not worried by this decline in numbers, but pay attention Martha Stewart Living: hire writers that are on par with your photographers, and you will be a force to be reckoned with for another 15 years.

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