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Like So Many Magazines, 'Ladies' Home Journal' Cuts Back


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Ladies' Home Journal, the magazine that was once so popular with housewives and homemakers, is ending its 130-year run as a monthly magazine. The print magazine business has of course changed dramatically in the last few decades.

And Ladies' Home Journal saw its own advertising revenues drop by more than 50 percent over the last 10 years. But this story isn't just about business as you might expect. NPR's Zoe Chace explains women have changed too.

ZOE CHACE, BYLINE: You could think of Sarah Chastain as the typical Ladies' Home Journal subscriber.

SARAH CHASTAIN: I don't think I'm a typical 72-year-old.

CHACE: All right, but she does fit the profile - stay-at-home mom for a time in Northeast Alabama. Her mom was a subscriber before her. And she does one thing very typical of Ladies' Home Journal readers.

CHASTAIN: Well, I typically go to "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" first.

CHACE: The "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" column, probably the most famous and popular part of Ladies' Home Journal.

CHASTAIN: I mean, I've been reading it probably for at least 60 years, so. I've seen a variety of every kind of conflict - you know, immorality, men that focused more on their jobs, and more so in the last few decades, women that focus on their work more than their families.

CHACE: Ladies' Home Journal started in 1883 and a lot has changed about ladies since then. It started as a one-pager in a farming magazine. The wife of the magazine owner thought there should be something just for ladies. And for a while, it was ahead of its time.

MICHAEL SEBASTIAN: I mean, it talked about, you know, how women have to be careful about having sex with their husbands because they might have syphilis.

CHACE: In the 19th century. Michael Sebastian is with Ad Age, and he says the magazine's heyday was the 1940s and '50s. That's when the "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" column launched, and it was hugely popular and scandalous.

SEBASTIAN: I mean, imagine Betty Draper writing in to Ladies' Home Journal to say can this marriage be saved. I mean, it's pretty bold for the time.


JANUARY JONES: (As Betty Francis) I know about you and that woman.

JONATHAN HAMM: (As Don Draper) What?

JONES: (As Betty Francis) Damn it, Don. I know you're having an affair.

HAMM: (As Don Draper) Betty, that's ridiculous.

JONES: (As Betty Francis) I'm just telling you I know.

CHACE: But there was no "Mad Men" back in 1940. Magazines were the place that women went to for entertainment. People weren't talking about things like infidelity in talk shows or in movies. They were talking about it in Ladies' Home Journal.

CHASTAIN: You know, we didn't see a lot of this. And the movies were different. And I'm in the Bible Belt. And divorce or anything like that in the church just about got you ostracized.

CHACE: It's not a great time to be in the magazine business for anybody, but other women's magazines like Good Housekeeping, Redbook are still holding on. Mike Sebastian says the future of lots of print magazines will be what Ladies' Home Journal is doing now - premium quarterly copies on newsstands only. July will be the last time "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" shows up in Chastain's mailbox.

CHASTAIN: It makes me sad, but I'm sure it will cut down on the clutter in my home.

CHACE: But the column and the rest of the magazine's content will be on the Internet. Zoe Chace, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Zoe Chace explains the mysteries of the global economy for NPR's Planet Money. As a reporter for the team, Chace knows how to find compelling stories in unlikely places, including a lollipop factory in Ohio struggling to stay open, a pasta plant in Italy where everyone calls in sick, and a recording studio in New York mixing Rihanna's next hit.