January 30, 2009

The American Society of Magazine Editors Lifetime Achievement Award

I am so very pleased to be honored by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) this past Thursday during a luncheon held at the beautiful Plaza in New York City.  I, as the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, was inducted into the ASME Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame.  It is really such a thrill to receive an award for a vision of mine that I, and my staff, have been living and believing since the very first issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine in 1991.  I applaud all of those who have worked with me and have made this vision a reality.  Thank you very much.

This is the video that was produced and played for the event.

Here is the loop of photos that played during the entire event.

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Here is the slide that went along with my remarks below.

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Martha Stewart Remarks

Lifetime Achievement Award

January 29, 2009

Thank you, Matt, for the lovely introduction.
And thank you to the American Society of Magazine Editors for honoring me.

As the video just showed, our business encompasses more than magazines. But that’s where we began. Magazines have taken us everywhere.

I’m sure I’m not the only one here who grew up enraptured with magazines. I remember sitting on the stoop of our family home in Nutley, New Jersey, waiting for the postman to deliver the latest issue of the Saturday Evening Post, Outdoor Life andNational Geographic. With six children, our family didn’t have a lot of money to spare but I would beg for copies of Vogue and Good Housekeeping and every now and then, I was allowed to get one.

My career in magazines began later in my professional life. I was a caterer and an author when I had the epiphany that I could create a “how to”magazine celebrating the art of everyday living. The subject of living is limitless, one that could be expanded and expounded upon, enlarged and extolled. We could cover everything that was of deep interest to me, and to readers who wanted to go home again. Si Newhouse agreed to fund the prototype, which Rochelle Udell designed. I owe a debt of gratitude to them both, even if Si did ultimately pass on the magazine! Rupert Murdoch also declined as he was contracting rather than expanding his magazine business. Still, I knew I had a good idea. Time Inc. thought so, too, and agreed to finance the preview issue of Martha Stewart Living in 1990.

I remember producing the very first issue as if it were yesterday. I spent countless hours with Isolde Motley, our first editor, and Gael Towey, our first art director. We worked in what must have been the worst office space in the entire Time-Life building. It was a high floor with a great view. But it was tiny and crowded and we were located directly above the floor housing the heating and ventilation equipment. Our offices vibrated, the equipment right below us literally heated the floor and the windows couldn’t be opened. My feet were swollen from the heat whenever I spent a long day in the office.

There were about eighteen of us back then. I’m fortunate to still work alongside many of them, including Gael Towey, Lisa Wagner, Hannah Milman, all of whom you just saw in the video, and my daughter Alexis. I’m delighted that they’re all here today—along with Isolde Motley. I could never have created Martha Stewart Living—much less our other magazines, books and our entire omnimedia business—without them and the many others who have joined us since. If the magazine as a whole has its history and its body of lore, every story has its smaller, more intimate history. There were some memorable early moments like the time we had decided to shoot a segment on a beautiful island off the coast of Florida, called Useppa. We FedExed more than 100 giant boxes full of props for the shoot.  What we didn’t realize is that there were no cars on Useppa. Nearly everything had to be carried by hand.  By the time we were done, all of us were referring to Useppa as “Uschleppa.”

We had many wonderful times. But some Time Inc. executives weren’t crazy about my personal approach to our content. And I admit that I wasn’t very good about following the hierarchical chain of command.

A couple of years into the partnership, I remember Reg Brack coming to see me at my home in Westport, Connecticut where we were shooting a lot of the photography for the magazine. He wanted us back in the office.

He said, “If you don’t like it, buy the magazine from us.”

I countered, “How much?”

The price tag—written on a scrap of paper that Sharon Patrick, MSLO’s first president, kept—was $85 million. Lucky for me it was 1997 when banks were still giving out loans! I borrowed the money, using my personal net worth as collateral along with newly negotiated contracts I had with Kmart and other strategic partners.

I had long envisioned leveraging our creative content across multiple media platforms and into product lines. With my team, we quickly set to building our omnimedia business, encompassing magazines, books, television, radio, the Internet and Merchandising.

This is a difficult time in the magazine world, a time of great challenges and great change. But challenging times can be constructive. They present an opportunity to rethink the way we do things, and discover what may be better ideas and practices. Digital is transforming our industry and we must embrace all that it has to offer so we can reach users and readers alike. We must continue to explore and invest in newer and emerging technologies so that we remain current, relevant and accessible to all consumers wherever they need and want us. When you’re through changing, you’re through.

How we do what we do will certainly change. But why we do what we do remains a constant. And that is to provide our customers with enriching content that they anticipate as eagerly as I did waiting on the stoop for the postman so many years ago. Whether that content is delivered in a magazine, online, over a cell phone or on some platform that has yet to be invented, it is a great privilege and pleasure to be invited into consumers’homes and into their lives.

I am grateful to them and I am grateful to you for this wonderful honor. Thank you!