Times Returns Home With New Editorial Section
By DARRELL SATZMAN
The latest piece in a two-year effort to remake the Los Angeles Times’ news pages will debut this week with the introduction of a Home section that covers topics ranging from architecture to gardening.
The new section, set to debut on April 17, will appear each Thursday. It will be heavy on photos and graphics and include consumer tips and how-to information for do-it-yourselfers.
“We’re definitely going to put in the human element. That’s something a lot of shelter magazines don’t do,” said Barbara King, a former Architectural Digest and Harper’s Bazaar editor who was hired in February to head the new section. “Our main theme will be showing how the house reflects the person living there and vice versa.”
The debut section will run 14 pages and feature an article about novelist and University of Southern California literature instructor T. Coraghessan Boyle, who lives with his family near Santa Barbara in a 1909 home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The size of subsequent sections will depend on the response of advertisers. Prior to the war with Iraq, ad sales at the Times had been gaining after two slow years. Its parent, Tribune Co., reported in February that publishing revenues were up six percent to $1.04 billion for the fourth quarter of 2002, vs. a gain of 1 percent for the whole year.
But world events have made many advertisers cautious.
“Right now the war is affecting all advertising,” King said. “But I don’t believe there any serious concerns about the timing.”
Advertising executives said the timing is right, if not overdue, for a Home section, given the growing popularity of “shelter” magazines. Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Family Circle all currently rank among the top 10 U.S. magazines by paid circulation. Several smaller publications, such as San Francisco-based Dwell, have launched in the past two years.
“Like anything we will have to wait and see. We’ll review it and our clients will review it,” said Kris Embrey, director of media operations for the Weston Group. “(But) we think it’s going to be an excellent section, in part because it’s running right behind the Calendar section, which has very high visibility.”
It’s been 18 years since the Times scrapped its Sunday Home magazine in favor of the broader Los Angeles Times Magazine, which itself has gone through several incarnations.
Jay Hoeschler, creative director at Motta Co., an ad agency that represents developers of large-scale housing developments, said the Times is a little behind the curve. Other large newspapers have established home sections, which are a lure for housing development ads. Currently, those ads appear in the Sunday Real Estate section, but he said that a Home section is preferable.
“It’s the one place that builders need to be,” Hoeschler said. “The classified stuff is good for nuts and bolts, but this kind of advertising is all about lifestyle.”
The Home section is the fourth significant editorial change at the paper since October, when it killed its California Living section and revamped its daily, weekend and Sunday Calendar coverage. The Times has also redesigned its weekly Health and Food sections.
Although there will be plenty of features about the region’s more extraordinary homes and the people who inhabit them, King insisted that the Home section was not designed simply to appeal to an upscale, Westside audience.
“(Coverage) will absolutely run the gamut of socio-economic groups,” King said. “We’re going to go into the Valley and into Orange County and really spread our wings.”
In particular, King said the section will have plenty of articles about Hispanic home life and would delve into the cultural diversity of Los Angeles.
Maria Castells-Heard, president and chief executive of Los Angeles Hispanic advertising agency Castells & Asociados, said a section that addresses the home life of Latinos would be welcomed by advertisers trying to reach a bilingual audience. Although Hispanics make up roughly half the city population, she cited a report showing that just 10 percent of the Times’ readership is Hispanic.
Home at the Times
Content: Lifestyle, including interior
design, architecture, gardens, relationships, technology and photos and graphics.
Frequency: Weekly, on Thursdays
Size: 14 pages (first issue)
Staffing: One editor, four reporters
History: Original Home magazine, which appeared on Sundays, was dropped in 1985 and replaced by the Los Angeles Times Magazine.