How Martha Stewart cooks up a storm on Facebook Live

Ruth will be at FIPP London where she will participate in the Worldwide Media Marketplace to discuss partnership opportunities. Ruth will also speak in more detail of their experiences with Facebook Live in the FIPP Mobile channel (on a side note, Facebook’s Andy Mitchell will also be there, where in conversation with partners he’ll highlight various FB developments for publishers to exploit).

FIPP London takes place from 10-11 May and includes four channels, Worldwide Media Marketplace and FIPP Mobile as mentioned above, as well as FIPP Tech and FIPP Innovation (4 deep-dive masterclasses). Take a look at the preliminary agenda here, and sign up for FIPP London here.

Here Ruth talks about the Martha Stewart Living brand and partnerships, explains why MSL has been an 360º brand virtually from the start, how they approached Facebook Live and what they’ve learnt from it, and more.

Can you share some insight on Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia – your overall strategy, how you position yourselves, why partnerships are important for growing the brand?

Martha’s vision for her brand has always been ambitious. When Martha wrote her first book, Entertaining, in 1980, she was setting the stage for a ‘lifestyle brand’ that would be a game changer in the branding world. Nothing had existed to match the enormity of the reach Martha had in mind. The book sold out in just a few weeks. Since then, Martha has continued her relationship with her publisher, Clarkson Potter, and she’s published 85 more books—all best sellers—covering topics like gardening, cooking, baking, crafting, entertaining, decorating, weddings, and health. 

Simultaneously, Martha launched her flagship magazine Martha Stewart Living. Later, she launched Martha Stewart Weddings, Everyday Food, Whole Living and Blueprint magazines. As a shrewd businesswoman, Martha knew that to reach more customers she had to link up with reputable partners, so she approached Time Inc and Time Inc jumped at the opportunity to publish MSL. As Martha’s success in publishing grew, she saw an opportunity within the retail environment. Her customers needed products that reflected this lifestyle brand. So Martha partnered with Kmart — a partnership that would make her a billionaire. Her partnership with K-mart, along with her partnership with NBC for her Emmy award-winning daytime show and her relationships with Random House and Time Inc were thriving. Martha had achieved a true 360, before the term became commonplace. She was reaching consumers at stores with product, television, and print. An ‘omnimedia’ company. Each vertical handled with the same core values – the highest quality product, the best value and the most beautiful style. 

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has continued to grow over the past 25 years and we have maintained exclusive strategic partnerships with retailers like The Home Depot, Macy’s, Petsmart, Staples and Michaels. There are Martha Stewart Kitchens at The Home Depot, among many other products. There’s a robust craft business at Michaels, and Staples and the partnership with Petsmart reaches a huge demographic of pet lovers – which means a great deal to Martha. 

There have been many other strategic partnerships over the years as well. Martha is the ultimate early adopter. Partnerships with Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Hulu, Youtube and Facebook have increased our reach dramatically. These partnerships and platforms have resulted in off-the-charts reach. In fact, Martha reaches 100 million consumers in one way or another every month.


You launched Martha Stewart on Facebook Live last year. How did that come about and what direction are you taking that?

We were approached by Facebook in the third quarter of 2015 to be a part of a small group of influencers to participate in a beta launch of Facebook Live. At first we questioned whether people would watch longform video on FB, but we had undeniable success from the get-go that we stopped worrying about that right away. We approached FB live in the way that we would approach any video or television project. Martha wanted to treat this medium as a ‘show’ instead of just talking to an iPhone. So we set up an audio plug to make sure that the sound was clear and we added lighting to the set whether it was on set or at Martha’s home. 

Other professionals asked to participate were using the medium differently. Author Deepak Chopra, for instance, was speaking to the iPhone directly. Lighting was not added so the video resembled a Youtube video. That might have been effective for Deepak but for Martha, the process had to be on brand, which meant good light and good audio.


Our first FB Live show was a collaboration with one of our partners, The Home Depot. We invited about 20 bloggers to join us in a studio while Martha and our Home editorial director, Kevin Sharkey, demonstrated how to decorate your home for the holidays using the Martha Stewart Ornament Collection available at The Home Depot. The show was part DIY and part promotion of The Home Depot products. The bloggers posted while they were watching the videos and in real time. Martha and Kevin were also able to answer questions that came in from the comments on FB. It was very interactive and engaging.

Since then we’ve done many more FB Live shows. Thanksgiving turkey prep, Christmas cookies, Valentines Day pretzels with Seth Myers, and now, we do shows on a variety of topics – egg decorating for Easter, Gardening for Spring, and Holiday Baking. Martha loves the format and even though we have two television cooking shows on PBS channel, Martha Bakes and Cooking School, we have ramped up our FB Live shows to about four a month. The Christmas cookies show has had more than 3 million views. And it has reached a broader audience. The best part of this format is that it lives on even after the show. The numbers get progressively larger as the show lives on FB.  


Why was FB Live the right move for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia? How does it fit with your other media activities and did it deliver a presence you didn’t previously have on mobile?

Absolutely. When you consider the demographics of the FB community, it’s a huge opportunity. First, it’s a different audience than a television show. It’s more casual, more approachable. It appeals to social media consumers. It also increases consumer engagement.

There are also opportunities to include integrations with partners like we did with The Home Depot. That’s priceless. Imagine reaching millions without marketing dollars! 

Unlike television, these shows reach an international audience. We’ve had questions come in from Thailand, and Sweden, in real time.  

And, FB believes that because we have such an engaging format, it has broader appeal. People are entertained. The live event may be seen as a ‘stunt’ but a week after, we still see viewers. With Seth Meyers, it was live but it felt like people were telling each other about it and, as time passed, the viewership grew. It’s also inexpensive. We literally shoot it on an iPad or iPhone. It’s live so there’s no editing. And best of all, there’s instant gratification because comments and questions are coming in and they are addressed in real time. We have seen the competitors and we believe that we have a much more polished look and feel. Some platforms require customers to focus on a specific topic and search, while FB Live lives on FB and you can search and you can scroll and find it. Instagram has time restraints. FB does not. The longform model is working for FB.  


What are the principles of your broadcasts – what have you learned in terms of what makes a successful broadcast versus a less successful one, and what audiences like/want?

The most successful FB Live shows have been interactive, where Martha is engaged with the audience. We always have a producer there following the stream of comments as Martha is baking or cooking. When questions come in, Martha addresses them right away as if she is talking to the person face to face. We generally have a lean team. When it’s about cooking or baking, we’ll have a food editor/chef, a camera person (holding the iPhone), an audio person and a social media producer to address the audience comments. That’s it. It can be done with a set or without a set but we feel that the lighting and audio are crucial. It is part of the brand – a professional approach is always a given with the MS brand. So, instead of needing hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a television show, this is done with very little expense. 

We find that the cooking and baking shows are the most successful. We’ve also learned to promote the show in advance on our sites, and on social media. Martha has more than 9 million social media followers and one tweet or one post on Pinterest can really make a difference in the numbers. 

We’ve noticed that there’s a lift in numbers after 30 minutes so we believe that people become engaged as they’re watching and tell their friends to tune in. 


How are the numbers and, more importantly, how is it helping you grow the brand and engage new audiences? 

There’s no monetization model to date. FB doesn’t allow us to make money from it. But we have sold integrations – not sponsorships, but we can integrate a product or messaging into it. Viewership is growing and as we do more of them we learn how to promote it and our partners. Having a celebrity on the show with Martha, like when Seth Myers was helping her bake pretzels for Valentine’s Day, helps the numbers. We know how many people have viewed them and we know the reach but, unfortunately, I can’t share those. We have consistently seen that more than a million people view on average, but we have also seen up to 3.5 million depending on the topic.


Are you exploring further opportunities across other emerging and fledgling platforms?

Martha has always been an early adopter and innovator. Her favorite saying is “when you’re through changing, you’re through!” She will always be looking for the next opportunity to reach her audience or a new audience. We have excellent relationships with our digital partners and we will always be open to participating in betas and new media. The state of media does not worry Martha. It’s been 25 years of innovation and growth for her and her customers, and there will be many more ahead. 

Meet Ruth at the Worldwide Media Marketplace and hear her speak about FB Live in the FIPP Mobile Channel at FIPP London, taking place from 10-11 May. Take a look at the preliminary FIPP London agenda here, and sign up for FIPP London here (hot tip: once you have signed up, use the online diary to pre-schedule WMM meetings to discuss partnerships with Martha and other participants in London).

More like this

Your FIPP London agenda and speakers update

WMM: a unique platform for greetings, meetings and deals making

Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x