Real Simple started as a magazine in 2000 and has since repurposed that content on its website, in email newsletters, in events, products, radio and television.
Little was simple about the launch of Real Simple back in 2000. The first few issues of the consumer magazine with a primarily female target didn’t exactly deliver on the message that readers expected. The press and advertising communities weren’t particularly enthusiastic either. Plus, Oprah’s O magazine launched within a month. Nevertheless, making women’s lives easier beat out other ideas by a large margin in all the pre-launch research conducted by Time Inc. So the publisher stuck with Real Simple — and so did the readers.
After about a year and a half of tweaking, Real Simple hit its stride. “We launched with a rate base of 400,000,” says Karen Saltser, general manager. “Once we had a magazine that fulfilled our brand promise, it began to grow unbelievably quickly.”
Within the first few years, the magazine became profitable, and that gave the publisher an opportunity to see what else the brand could do for its readers. “Because the concept resonated so strongly, we always thought that Real Simple could be more than a magazine” Saltser says. “Our other magazine brands had branched out into other media, but we always thought that Real Simple could be something even more unique. And when I look at all the customer touch points that we’ve built, I think, ‘Wow, we really had a good idea. And we continue to stay in touch with our consumers — which is, in large part, the basis of our success.”
By 2005, Real Simple began to roll out several more brand extensions.
During its first few years, growth from the magazine was in the double digits. That has now slowed, and Saltser believes that the digital space has the biggest potential to drive that kind of double-digit growth again. “We want to be able to reach women and help them solve their problems 24/7,” she says. “Right now, we do that on a monthly basis with our magazine, periodically with our books and special issues, weekly with our TV show and newspaper column, and daily with the radio segments. So we feel that the digital space offers a huge potential for our business. I can definitely see a real shift in where our revenues will come from five years from now.”
How Real Simple is repurposing their content
Real Simple repurposes their magazine content online by featuring recipes, as well as beauty, life, organizing and food tips via articles and videos.
Website content is repurposed in their six editorial-based email newsletters.
A weekly half-hour show, called Real Simple TV, launched on PBS in 2006. Since then, they have added video to their website which features cooking classes, beauty tips and more that starts from their magazine and is repurposed into their television show.
The content from their magazine inspires numerous Real Simple branded books. Real Simple has published six books to date: Real Simple: The Organized Home, Real Simple Cleaning, Real Simple Solutions, Meals Made Easy, Real Simple Weddings, and Real Simple Celebrations.
But repurposing content doesn’t stop at products. Real Simple also hosts different entertainment and cooking events, such as the Real Simple Entertain NY event. Used to satisfy advertiser requests to touch the consumer in person, Real Simple also sponsors a number of events each year. “Problem Detector” seeks women’s opinions on their most frequent and bothersome problems and informs the magazine’s editorial.
Real Simple has also branched out into radio. They have a relationship with XM media on its Take 5 women’s channel that includes a variety of one-minute Real Simple Solutions segments that run 10-12 times a day.
Merchandise is huge for Real Simple. Their readers and articles have inspired dozens of branded home office and desk accessory products are sold primarily through Target stores; cleaning products are sold at smaller chains. In the first year, more than a million units were sold.
RealSimple.com has seen a 75% growth in traffic over last year, resulting in more than 760,000 unique visitors a month with an average of over 5.5 million page views (May 2008, according to Compete.com). Content from Real Simple magazine is repurposed for free all over their website, with recipes, stories or videos and then used to sell subscriptions, books and back issues through email newsletters and by driving traffic from their other media outlets. Every publisher should be giving away lots of free content online to increase traffic and sell more subscriptions, products and services.