Founded in 1977 by John and Sally Mayhill and Jim and Nancy Cottrell, the magazine’s original name was Indianapolis Home & Garden. It underwent changes in 1980 and was renamed Indianapolis At Home. A third name change to Indianapolis Monthly (IM) occurred in 1981 after Tom Mayhill (John’s father) of Mayhill Publishing took ownership. At that time, Deborah Paul became editor-in-chief and copublisher and Jack Marsella became advertising director and copublisher. Jeff Smulyan, chairman and principal owner of emmis communications, became the third owner in 1988.

The magazine covers shows a woman, with flowers cascading from her hair, holding an artist's palette. The issue headline is "Where to Buy Art".
Indianapolis Monthly magazine, 2021 Credit: Indianapolis Monthly

City magazines such as IM maintain a pulse on the city with their short and long-form articles. IM’s long-form content has run the gamut from a profile on basketball legend Larry Bird to an investigative journalism piece about Eli Lilly And Company’s long-ago involvement with cannabis production and marijuana farming. Its content includes coverage of politics, sports, crime, lifestyle, entertainment, restaurants, culture, business, and notable Indianapolis personalities.

IM capitalized on its dining coverage when the Indianapolis Business Journal eliminated its restaurant reviews and The Indianapolis Star focused on recipes rather than the local dining scene. Its most popular content continues to be its 15 full pages devoted to dining news and reviews. IM is also known for its annual “Best and Worst of Indianapolis” awards started in 1983, as well as its “People’s Choice Awards.”

IM celebrated its 15th year in September 1992, boasting a circulation of over 45,000 in central Indiana. In 2014, it won the general excellence award in its circulation category from the City and Regional Magazine Association.

From 2016 to 2019, the magazine’s paid circulation dropped from about 40,000 to 37,000, with its average aged reader being 53 years old. The demise of Marsh Supermarkets, in 2017, contributed to a drop in IM‘s circulation. Marsh had displayed the magazine prominently at all its checkout aisles, which contributed to 40 percent of IM‘s newsstand sales.

Despite the drop in circulation, the majority of IM’s revenue has continued to come from its print publication, until the magazine made a serious push into digital to grow its reach and its revenue. IM spent most of 2018 overhauling its website adding extra functionality and then relaunching it in early 2019. IM also expanded its use of three social media accounts that have enabled the magazine to make new connections with readers. The digital content has its own full-time digital editor and digital advertising sales executive. 

By 2021, Indianapolis Monthly had nearly 129,000 website visits and 336,000 digital page views a month. IM also launched a podcast in 2019. E-Newsletters have allowed the magazine to reach targeted audiences, who subscribe to its dining newsletter “The Dish,” its news-focused newsletter “The Buzz,” and its arts and culture newsletter “The Ticket.” 

By adding digital content IM boosted its readership to more than 300,000 in 2020.  With its digital material as content-driven as its print version, IM is attracting a younger audience to its website and then hopes eventually to encourage them to become print subscribers, since about 90 percent of its revenue comes from its local print advertising. Over 50 percent of IM‘s digital users are between 25 and 44.

Though the city magazine business model has been tenuous for the print industry, IM has established long relationships with local merchants who continue to find value in and identify with the local magazine.

Revised July 2021

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