A Little Rock special publication will no longer be printed as a standalone magazine.
SAVVYkids, a family-oriented publication, will be folded into Arkansas Times, starting next month. In the August issue of SAVVYkids, editor Amy Gordy announced that the publication would be shifting formats in September. “Next month, you’ll be able to find the same great family-oriented content in a slightly reduced size and bound within the pages of the Arkansas Times, our parent publication,” she wrote.Merging SAVVYkids into the Arkansas Times would give both publications an opportunity to gain new readerships, according to SAVVYkids publisher Brooke Wallace.
Arkansas Times publisher Alan Leveritt attributed the decision to fold SAVVYkids into the Times to declining ad revenues. Ad sales for SAVVYkids, he said, “weren’t really doing what we needed,” and he chose the middle course of putting SAVVYkid’s content inside the parent publication instead of shutting it down entirely.
Leveritt lays the blame for the declining advertising dollars squarely on the COVID-19 pandemic. When the company’s advertisers began shutting down in March and April due to the coronavirus pandemic, SAVVYkids’ advertising haul took a heavy hit.
“This is all COVID. 100 percent COVID,” he said. “That’s just an adjustment for a COVID reality.”
Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, Leveritt is not allowing it to shut his company down. He noted that the Times has not had any lay-offs during the pandemic, and his teams are continuing to produce both magazine and online work. “So, we’re seeing some good business. We’re very optimistic,” he said.
Moving away from the standalone format for SAVVYkids is expected to reduce expenses for the company. “We’re just trying to make lemonade out of lemons,” Leveritt said.
Created in 2010 by AY Media Group publisher Heather Baker (who publishes both Arkansas Money & Politics and AY About You magazine), the monthly magazine was designed to increase the quality of family-oriented magazine content in the Central Arkansas market. Baker also was the creator and found publisher of Arkansas AutoBuyer and Arkansas Wild during her tenure at Arkansas Times.
“I felt the need for the market to have a family magazine. My motto was, ‘Families that play, stay together,’ so I wanted to develop content for families to engage – have dinner together, play games together and more,” she said.
Establishing the magazine was challenging, facing multiple competitors in the Little Rock market out of the gate. According to Baker, SAVVYkids had to contend with two established publications – Kids Directory and Little Rock Family – which created a crowded market. “It was a lot of work. We had more kids’ publications in Little Rock than in the Dallas market,” she said.
Since its establishment, Leveritt said SAVVYkids has remained committed to providing its target audience with educational and entertaining content focused on family. “
I don’t know that it’s really changed that much over the years,” he said. “Basically our target [audience] is women with children at home. They’re often, at least demographically, the primary caregivers. Basically, [we] try to help parents raise their children and have fun with their children.”
Changing the format for SAVVYkids is only the latest shift for Leveritt and the Arkansas Times. The magazine shifted to a monthly format in 2019 from a weekly tabloid format. The move was a risk, Leveritt acknowledged, but one that has paid off for the Arkansas Times, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
“It’s doing well. It’s doing much, much better. We’ve got our July issue, which was almost equal – about 10 percent below last July. I was tickled to death,” he said.
According to its website, Arkansas Times existed as a bimonthly newsprint at first before becoming a magazine and then moving to its tabloid form. In the 1990s, the company invested heavily in the online realm, creating the Arkansas Blog.
Since its founding in 1974 – Sept. 5. 1974, to be specific – the Arkansas Times has faced multiple challenges. Changing SAVVYkids’ format is only the latest bump in the road for Leveritt – one that he sees as an opportunity to reinvent the magazine.
“We’ve reinvented ourselves several times over the decades as the publishing landscape changed,” he said. “The Times is a mission-driven company. When we started this company, it was literally to make Arkansas a better place to live through solid journalism, investigative reporting, cultural reporting and history. And that’s what we’ve tried to do.”