I was invited to speak at the Southern Living Custom Builders’ annual conference in Birmingham this past weekend. The conference began with an address by Eleanor Griffin, who is Southern Living’s Editor-In-Chief. Eleanor listed the top ten things that would guide the upcoming direction of the magazine as America in general and the South in particular face times that are much different from what they have been for years. Her top ten items that Southern Living readers are telling her are:
1. Keep your Southern vernacular accent.
2. Build with the land. It’s a great Southern asset.
3. Quality still trumps quantity - and it always will.
4. The kitchen has retained the title of “splurge-worthy” even in tough times.
5. Lack of square footage does not mean lack of style.
6. Hardworking spaces communicate value.
7. Lack of pretension does not mean lack of personality.
8. “Green” and “sustainability” are finally making “cents.”
9. Southerners consider their back yards a second family room.
10. Never underestimate the power of a little romance.
So these were the things that the readers have been telling Southern Living as times have gotten more difficult. But then Eleanor proceeded to lay out a few other new directions, too, in which she intends to lead the magazine. The big news of the day was here, from my perspective as a New Urbanist. I’ve had a longstanding relationship with the magazine, and have been encouraging them to move toward more New Urbanist stories, house plans, etc., for at least a dozen years. Everybody I’ve ever known at Southern Living and Coastal Living has always been very supportive of the ideas of the New Urbanism, but most of them felt that it was a niche market that only a few of their readers would be interested in.
Friday, Eleanor changed all that. She said “Ten years ago, I never would have believed I’d be saying this, but we now feel that the New Urbanism is the future of American place-making, so beginning immediately, our articles about new places will be about the traditional neighborhoods created by the New Urbanism. We’ll still write about the great old places, too, of course. The first story you’ll see will be on DPZ’s New Town at St. Charles in a few weeks.”
Eleanor’s leadership in this issue is huge, because Southern Living has a circulation of 14 million, and is the unquestioned lifestyle authority throughout the South. I heartily congratulate her on this bold move and look forward to watching where this might lead. And as a matter of fact, look for follow-up news here in the next few weeks about one of the initiatives spawned by this direction!
~ Steve Mouzon