Targeting the spenders

Dubuque newspaper also publishes a magazine for women


Even a successful publication needs retooling now and then, and that's what's happening with herTM, a magazine published by the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa.

The magazine has been around for 15 years. Its premise is that 85 percent of consumer spending is influenced by women. During the recent SNPA-Inland Annual Meeting, herTM was cited by presenter Tom Yunt as the type of revenue opportunity other newspaper companies should seek to emulate.

Currently, herTM is inserted into the newspaper eight times a year and specialized issues are published separately twice a year. The magazine is also placed in 300 high-traffic areas such as restaurants, health clubs, spas and office waiting rooms. Total circulation is just above 25,000.

"We're in the process right now of working with an outside facilitator to work on some focus groups of readers," said Steve Fisher, publisher of TH Media and Woodward Community Media. "We're working with a local advertising agency on some branding, to help us tweek some of the layout and design work. Our goal through this process is to find out how women want to receive the publication."

Originally the target market was women ages 25 to 50, but today it's more like ages 30 to 55. The magazine focuses on work/life balance, Fisher said. For example, a recent cover story was on mothers and daughters in business. Other topics include women's leisure activities, health, beauty, fashion, gardening and children. There's a calendar of events and a "Her choice" issue in which readers vote on their favorites in a "best of" format.

The magazine also sponsors various women-oriented events. For example, it hosts a signature event associated with the magazine called HER Night Out. At this event the magazine sells booths, has a fashion show, dinner and a speaker. But part of the rethinking of herTM involves the realization that men are also reading.

The magazine is overseen by what Fisher calls "a dedicated product champion" on the editorial and advertising sides. For editorial, it's the newspaper's feature editor and for advertising it's a senior advertising executive. Both sides collaborate on topics, themes and special sections.

Most of the content is local but also includes material from two feature services to which the paper subscribes. Newspaper staffers, freelancers and local experts on specific topics contribute content.

Fisher said whatever changes might occur, no one wants to upset loyal readers or advertisers. "We have a number of advertisers who have been in this publication for years and years. Knowing that we're not 100 percent convinced that we're reaching that entire market the way we need to reach it through the newspaper, that's why we've started the process to really dig into the focus groups," he said.

The company plans to take herTM to 12 issues a year with two additional special issues in 2018. Alternative delivery methods are possible if executives think they will be more effective than newspaper inserts.

Focus groups of readers will be asked if they would rather get the magazine within the newspaper or delivered separately to their homes or offices. They'll be asked about what's important in their lives in general and about what types of stories they prefer to see.

Yunt advised annual meeting attendees to contact Fisher for samples of the magazine and its media kit. Fisher said he's happy to talk to anyone about it. He advises other publishers, "I think you need a formula. You have the content. What's the specific audience you want to reach?"

Fisher also advises using existing content in different markets and channels.

"Newspapers have to get over this notion that they can't repurpose content – and that's where I think the great opportunity is for taking a magazine and then moving it outside your publication – because the most expensive component is creating the content.

"There are stories, particularly feature stories or long-read stories or enterprise stories, that can be retooled from one target audience to the next target audience. Think in terms of repackaging or reusing content that you've already generated from the newspaper."

For more information, contact Steve Fisher at

Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes is a freelance writer and editor based in Daphne, Ala. Reach her at

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