Grandparents Magazine serves unique readership

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When Grandma and Grandpa decide to settle in The Villages, Fla., chances are good that the grandchildren will want to visit – particularly if the new place is an hour north of Disney World, 90 minutes from the beach and steps way from a swimming pool.

But beyond the obvious attractions, grandparents hope to establish fulfilling relationships with the grandchildren and keep them entertained after the obligatory Disney World trip is done. That's where a new quarterly publication, The Villages Grandparents Magazine, comes in.

The Villages is a private planned retirement community north of Orlando, with more than 120,000 residents and 45,000 homes. It is mainly inhabited by people 55 and older. The Villages has its own shops, grocery, restaurants and a daily newspaper with a circulation of more than 50,000. The Villages Daily Sun and the monthly Villages Magazine emphasize local news, events and feature stories.

Download 72-page PDF of this month's issue.
The Villages Grandparents began as an annual special section in The Villages Magazine delivered the first Tuesday of each month with the newspaper, said Jennifer Gorczany, who is now associate publisher of Grandparents Magazine and writes all the copy. When the guide began to seem a bit stale, it was reformatted in 2013 as "a magazine inside of a magazine," she said.

More important, it was a hit with the residents.

"The response was fantastic," Gorczany said. "Then we started to realize that not only were the readers enjoying it, but our business partners, our advertisers, were also liking the new format. So we decided to go ahead and make it a stand-alone product."

The old format was basically a feature story. The new format (the second issue accompanies this column) concentrates on advice.

For example, the September issue urged grandparents to plan nothing for the day the kids arrive, especially if they're from the North. That's because they'll want to go to the pool first thing, having thought about swimming all day on the trip south.

Local events are detailed and schedules for day trips are offered for age groups from toddlers to teenagers. Rather than wondering what to do next, Grandma can follow a schedule or pick and choose what is appropriate for little ones or older children.

Beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico are close enough for an easy day trip, so one story described the most popular beaches. An article offered advice on how to introduce small or fearful children to water by starting in the pool. The magazine offers "family-friendly recipes" for things the two generations can make together.

"One of the biggest things that we're tackling is ways to bridge that generational gap," Gorczany said.  "And one of the ways we do that is through educating our residents on technology. We talk about tech lingo and how to get in touch with your grandkids through technology."

The magazine covers such basics as playing games online, sharing photos, taking "selfies" and using Skype. Residents can then keep in better touch and build relationships with out-of-town grandchildren. Gorczany said one grandparent with a grandchild living in Australia was able to use Skype to watch the child open a gift she'd sent.

Seven thousand copies are distributed free inside a local grocery store in racks designed to fit in with the store's décor. Although it has one writer, three designers work to make the magazine eye-catching. Gorczany said most photos are of residents and their grandchildren. "That's another reason they love it."

The Villages obviously is a unique market with a demographic advertisers love. Gorczany says residents much prefer print to web-based news, to the point that the new magazine hasn't even been posted. They support their local newspaper, but they insist on a high level of quality.

"The content is so important, because it has to be relevant," Gorczany said. It has to teach them something. It has to hold interest and be something that they haven't seen before."

She continues: "Our readers are very vested in what we do. Our biggest goal is to make sure that we can continue to provide that local-local coverage. And Grandparents is a great extension of our brand – The Daily Sun – in order to do that."

For more information, contact Jennifer Gorczany at Jennifer.Gorczany@TheVillagesMedia.com.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes is a regular contributor to the SNPA eBulletin.  She is a freelance writer and editor based in Daphne, Ala., and a former editorial writer for the Press-Register in Mobile. Email her at jbnicholes@att.net.


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BillOstendorf

I had the opportunity to award the original grandparents section an award in the Inland Press Association's special section/new business contest this summer.

What I liked about this section is that it is so obvious and has so many opportunities, especially for this paper in a retirement community in Florida. But this idea – and more importantly this kind of thinking – can be applied at any newspaper.

At Creative Circle, when we redesign newspapers and re-engineer newsrooms, we urge journalists to cover life, not just news. To think about how people spend their day, what they are worried about, what their priorities are in addition to covering beats and government and fires.

People live their lives through weddings and relationships and beauty parlors and restaurants and trips to the beach. Newspapers and newsrooms need to pay more attention to life coverage. And while this is a soft section, there is a lot of news in everyday life, too. We've got to take our blinders off and focus on what our readers care about. We've got to touch their lives and be more relevant not only in what we cover but also in how we cover it.

This section was also great because they did such a good job making their coverage interesting, fun and visual. They had fun with it so the readers will, too. That's something else that is missing from a lot of what journalists do.

Have some fun!

Bill Ostendorf, president, Creative Circle Media Solutions

Tuesday, December 9, 2014