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Why Shelter Books Are Getting Shuttered

Or Are They merely the New Bridal Magazine — & Implications for Print vs. Online Only

With the news that Hachette Filipacchi Media is shuttering Metropolitan Home magazine,
we’ve come to a turning point, I think, in what used to be known as the “shelter books” — magazines focusing on interior design for the home.

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In an environment where home foreclosures continue to mount up, the
potential readership for decorating tips has other things on their mind.

In fact, a lot of people seem to renovate these days only to spruce up their homes to make them more marketable. I know someone who had put off updating their kitchen for year because they thought they might move, and now are moving — but not before investing $10,000 to update their kitchen appliances. And that’s even though they know any buyer will rip out those improvements to more completely renovate the kitchen. (My friend is also lamenting that they didn’t spend the money years ago to enjoy the new appliances.)

I’m not saying that’s the only reason or only time these days that people are renovating or updating their homes. But it does seem true when I look around at friends and colleagues.

The advertisers and publishers seem to recognize that fact. After all, they’ve pulled the plug on at least six other shelter pubs: nStyle Home, Cottage Living, Blueprint, Country Home, O at Home and Domino.

True, there are still a lot of other shelter pubs out there, like Better Homes & Gardens and Elle Decor.

But I think people interested in interior design magazines may be shifting their reading habits, and won’t be interesting in annual subscriptions to those magazines. Like readers of bridal magazines, these will be interested buyers, looking for tips and ideas before they actually decide to update the look of their homes. They’ll buy a couple of issues, and be done.

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Besides, they can always look online at the weekly home sections still published by many newspapers. Of course, the graphics on newsprint aren’t as impressive on high glossy magazine stock, but it’s more convenient.

And while our clients usually are not interested in shelter pubs, one reason I’m interested in this change is that the high resolution graphics necessary for shelter pubs was one reason I thought they — along with bridal and high-end travel magazines — would survive without having to shift to an online-only business model. Because the graphics are so important to the end product.

For the moment, it seems only bridal and high-end travel magazines may be able to resist going online only. And even their future is far from assured.

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