#WomensMonth: Good Housekeeping's feel-good female factor, in any language

It's been on shelf for four years locally and is SA's only international title adapted for an Afrikaans audience. Here's why Good Housekeeping/Goeie Huishouding is boasting impressive growth with editor Sally Emery at the helm, and why she recommends always asking 'Why' in getting a good story.
At the core of the Associated Media’s Good Housekeeping brand globally is the promise to deliver genuinely useful content to women that saves them time money and hassle in their busy lives. Sally Emery, editor of the brand since its local launch in November 2011, explains that around the world, women face the same challenges: “We want to spend our money wisely. Our families are at the heart of everything we do and all the choices we make. We’re all juggling different responsibilities – work, home, friendships, relationships and parenting.” So the core values this brand represents appeal to women regardless of where you live.

Sally Emery
Sally Emery
That’s certainly true of Good Housekeeping, with the original magazine having launched in the US in 1885 and in the UK in 1922. There are also editions of Good Housekeeping published in the Philippines, Kazakhstan and Russia. But it’s the SA version that we’re most interested in, especially as it’s showing 109% growth digitally year-on-year, with readership currently at 93,000. Add digital platforms to the mix and that rises to around 371,000 each month.

Emery admits that international brands have to have a local personality to resonate with their audience, and says they do this by ensuring they blend content that has appeal to all women, with content that is also very SA specific. This includes the fashion, beauty food and décor buys, as well as parenting information, travel features, the unique security concerns South Africans have, as well as special features like 101 Best Braai Secrets, or SA Celebrity Bake Stars.

Here, Emery lets us in on the brand’s local success over the years…

1. Talk us through the difference between your English and Afrikaans readers – both of the print publication and across your social media platforms.

Emery: Fundamentally – in terms of what interests them – the audience is the same, regardless of language. The major difference that I notice, particularly when it comes to our digital platforms, is the level of engagement with our content from the different language groups. We have separate English and Afrikaans websites, and also separate English and Afrikaans Facebook pages. Although the engagement on both language platforms is good, the level of engagement on our Afrikaans Facebook page is higher. In July, our Afrikaans Facebook page had a reach of over one million, which is phenomenal when you consider this comes off a base of 55,000 likes. The Afrikaans audience in particular loves sharing our content with friends on her own wall. This means that we’re producing content that resonates so well with her that she’s compelled to share it with her circle of friends – as a publisher, this means you’ve hit the bull’s eye in terms of content delivery.

The main reason for this difference in the way our English and Afrikaans audience engages is the fact that there is limited GH-type content available online for Afrikaans women. There aren’t many places she can go to find useful content, in her home language, relating to health, beauty and relationship issues. Our Afrikaans Facebook ‘quotes’ and ‘sayings’ posts are hugely popular.

2. Still on the topic of differences, how does your online/digital content offering differ to the print publication, such as with the new interactive online puzzles?

Emery: The content pillars – home, family, value buys, tips and shortcuts, food, health, parenting, relationships, fashion and beauty – are the same, both online and in print, but the actual content is different. Fresh digital content – produced by the same editorial team that produces our print content – is uploaded to our website every day, so there’s always something new for our audience to engage with. Some of the content from the magazine – for example, our recipes – is uploaded onto our sites once the magazine has come off shelf. We have close to 1,000 recipes online – all of them triple tested to ensure they never flop. And of course our in-book competitions live online too – they’re also a great traffic driver.

With regards to our puzzles, when we first launched the print title, we didn’t have a crossword page. Within a few issues, our readers made us aware that they felt this was missing from our content offering, so crosswords, and other word and number puzzles were added to the editorial mix. Following the success of the print puzzles in our magazines, the obvious next step was to launch digital puzzles on our websites. In July we launched our digital crosswords, word searches and Sudoku puzzle. The puzzles – which are fully responsive and work across multiple platforms – are uploaded daily, and live on the site for one week. I refer to them as 'Waiting Games' – something fun to do while you're waiting for your children to finish their extra-murals, commuting to or from work, waiting in queues, or simply as an entertaining way to unwind. And of course kids love them too. Response – as we predicted – has been phenomenal.

3. What’s the importance of a good quality ‘female’ printed read then, in the age where everything is digital?

Emery: The printed magazine is at the core of this brand, as the carefully curated cornerstone. The one thing that sets great printed content apart from digital content is perhaps the most obvious: the fact that a printed magazine is something you can touch, feel, smell – the very tactile, personal experience of print.

August's English and Afrikaans covers.
August's English and Afrikaans covers.

When you buy a magazine, you feel like you own the content inside it. We frequently get emails from readers who talk about tearing pages out to keep as a reference, or marking up great content with stickies so that they can revisit an article they loved or a tip they want to remember. I don't believe you get that same sense of ownership when it comes to digital content. Digital is, after all, owned by everyone and is accessible to anyone; it is more of a shared – and less of a personal – experience. That said, for me the biggest challenge as an editor today – of a brand, not just a magazine – is to interact with my audience not just monthly through the printed edition of the brand, but daily through great online content that our audience feels compelled to share. Print and digital aren't mutually exclusive – thank goodness!

4. That ties into my next question: What’s the biggest challenge of your business month?

Emery: I love content, and all the processes that go around creating and packaging content and delivering it to our audience. For print, we still work around monthly deadlines so there’s an ebb and flow in terms of busy-ness. But digital content means daily deadlines, and completing the full circle in terms of content production – from idea conception to delivery to audience – often over the course of just a few hours. That said, for me the most rewarding part of my role as editor of the brand is content curation. There are thousands of good stories out there, but it is about deciding what makes a something relevant to Good Housekeeping and our audience, as well as ensuring a good mix of content, whether in print or online.

5. Let’s end with some advice to aspiring female journos looking to follow in your footsteps!

Emery: Behind any good journalist is a passion to inform, touch and ultimately shape their audience’s lives. I take great pride in the fact that the content we produce genuinely makes a difference to people’s lives – the best part of my day is reading the emails our readers send me or reading the comments on our social media platforms. The media world has changed hugely in the 27 years since I first started working on newspapers, and I’ve loved going through all these transformations. But the main change has been the way in which people consume content, not in the content itself. There will always be good stories to tell, and useful content to share.

Young women wanting to follow a career in journalism, take every opportunity that comes your way – whether that’s working on the school or student newspaper or website, or starting your own blog. Listen well and don’t just ask the obvious who, what, where and when questions. Ask the why. Most importantly, ask yourself, ‘Why would someone want to read this?’ It’s also hugely important to stay current, to understand and use new platforms, otherwise you risk making yourself redundant in this ever-changing media world.

That’s for sure. Find out more from the print version of the magazine’s, with an on-shelf price point under R30, or interact with the brand in English or Afrikaans for free on Twitter at @GoodHouseSA or @GoeieHuis, on Instagram at @goodhousekeepingsa or #goeiehuishouding, or follow the team on Facebook at GoodHousekeepingSA or GoeieHuishouding.

About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews AKA the #MilkshakeQueen, is former Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at Bizcommunity.com, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality, and of course, gourmet food and drinks! She can be reached on Twitter at @Leigh_Andrews.
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