Smart business move, or desperate attempt to remain relevant?

LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL* this week announced a plan to start incorporating user-generated material into the print magazine.  Beginning with the March issue, LHJ will feature editorial content harvested from its digital and social media channels, including the LHJ website, its Facebook page and DivineCaroline.com.

Cynics might wonder if this is a cost-cutting measure, like the plethora of TV reality shows, which are cheaper to produce than scripted television.  But LHJ claims it will pay the amateur contributors “professional rates,” and that the magazine still will use fact-checkers and subject matter experts.

So, what’s behind LHJ’s new move, and what does it mean for the magazine’s relationship with professional freelancers?  Wooden Horse contacted publisher Meredith’s executive director of communications, Patrick Taylor, to get some insight.

Taylor says the changes “will not mean that we will no longer use any freelance writers,” or that they won’t have “deep editorial expertise and staff.”  The magazine will continue to have columns and stories “written by both internal and external editorial contributors.”

As far as the reasoning behind the plan, Taylor says the switch is designed to “deepen the brand’s engagement with its readers and tap into the growing network and impact of social media conversation,” and “to combine the authenticity of user-generated information” with “highly cultivated and curated content.”

In a media environment where everyone-especially those in the coveted younger demographic-has a Facebook page, Twitter feed and a blog, where it’s all about them, LHJ seems to be going to make it all about them-and hope that’s enough to keep them coming back.

And if it’s successful, can we expect other magazines to follow suit?

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