Garden Design magazine returns (in print)
As their model, the new owners looked to Surfer’s Journal, which for 25 years has survived via the support of readers; no advertising. Subscribers pay more of the cost of the magazine, but because ads aren’t taking up space, there’s more room for content.
Special to The Seattle Times
GARDEN DESIGN is back in print, with the tagline “The Magazine of Outdoor Design + Garden Aesthetics.”
Even though the glossy mag (founded in 1982) had gone through editorial changes and shrunk in size during its last few years, it was a shock when it ceased publication with the April 2013 issue.
After a year’s hiatus and change in ownership, the new Garden Design launched its first issue this summer at a satisfyingly fat 132 pages. It’s more coffee table book than the magazine we knew. Seattle readers will be happy to see a local garden featured in the first issue. The second issue is due on newsstands and in mailboxes by mid-September. Our part of the country is well represented with a piece by Indianola-based plant explorer Dan Hinkley on autumn color, and a heads up on what’s new at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.
I’m thrilled, yet surprised, that a garden magazine has been resurrected when publications like Metropolitan Home and Gourmet appear permanently defunct. How did the magazine come back into print?
Luck and enthusiasm. Business associates Jim Peterson and Thad Orr just happened to read in The Wall Street Journal that Garden Design was shutting down. Both live in Southern California, are gardeners and fans of the magazine. Neither had experience with consumer magazines; Peterson publishes the trade website Concrete Network. Nevertheless, Peterson bought the 31-year-old Garden Design trademark, archives and website, planning to revive the magazine online only.
But then Peterson and Orr took a trip around the country to talk with retailers, readers and former photographers and writers for Garden Design. “We kept hearing over and over again how much people wanted a print edition,” says Orr, who is now editor-in-chief. “I don’t think print is dead, especially for highly visual publications.”
The pair looked outside the gardening world for ideas on how to finance a print edition. Early on, they rejected the ad-based model used by most magazines, including Garden Design in its previous incarnation. “So much effort goes into the ads, that it’s like the tail wagging the dog,” says Orr. They looked to er’s Journal, a magazine that for 25 years has worked on a reader-supported, advertising-free model. This means that subscribers pay more of the cost of the magazine. But because ads aren’t taking up space, there’s more room for content.
“The first issue of Garden Design is terrific,” says Bill Marken, who was editor-in-chief of the magazine from 2001-2008, and is now consulting with the new regime. “They’ve kept lots of the old things that worked, but added more pages so there’s really room to celebrate gardens.” The magazine will include international gardens, as it did before. Orr plans to publish gardens in all areas of the U.S., not just on the coasts. Every issue features regional pages.
Orr promises an emphasis on design. “We don’t have a lot of ‘how-to’ information. We focus on the why of plant choices and on insights from the best designers.” He says subscription sales are booming. “We expect that the first issue’s 132 pages will be the minimum; we hope it’ll grow,” says Orr. And remember, those are 132 ad-free pages.
The autumn issue of Garden Design ($12.95) will be on newsstands by mid-September. There will be four issues published in 2015; subscriptions cost $45 for one year, $84 for two. Check out the new online version at http://www.gardendesign.com/.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.