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Veranda's visionary

Few have brought as much positive attention to the South as Lisa Beckwith Newsom. As the founder and editor-in-chief of Veranda magazine, she has used words and photography to introduce the handsome homes, lush gardens, designers, artists, dealers and galleries of the South to the world. A recent traveler to Greece found copies of Veranda on newsstands there. National and international subscriptions bring letters and e-mail from readers all over the world who want to visit the region. A dream-come-true for promoters of Buckhead and the district's retailers.

Tales of reader-response are legend, due in no small part to the quality of Veranda's editorials and features. Lisa, from Day One, has refused to compromise in her dedication to excellence. Yet despite her publication's success, she remains a modest person, inspiring loyalty and respect.

A native of Thomasville, Georgia, she did not seek fame an fortune as a publisher; she has no journalism background. As a young medical assistant, she married Neal Newsom, a much-admired now-retired Atlanta physician, and followed his career as an Air Force doctor and later Atlanta obstetrician, producing four children of her own before launching her unlikely career in publishing.

Lisa Newsom
Lisa Newsom

With no training as a writer, much less in advertising sales, her story is one of both good taste and good fortune.

On leaning that the W.R.C. Smith Co. had abandoned plans to publish Southern Accents magazine in 1976, she went to their offices to ask "Why not?"

Publisher Walter Mitchell said mailings to potential subscribers and advertisers had been disappointing. Up till then, the company had specialized in trade journals; this would be their first venture into consumer magazines. Lisa had received one of the mailings and was excited about the prospects of a home publication patterned on Architectural Digest but concentrating on the South.

She supplied a new mailing list, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Smith Co. revived the venture, Lisa signed on as a staffer, and Mitchell showed his appreciation a few years later by naming Lisa editor-in-chief.

Once Southern Accents became successful, it was purchased by the Birmingham, Alabama-based Southern Progress Co., the publisher of Southern Living. But Lisa was determined that Atlanta should have its own upscale home magazine.

With a handful of fellow staffers, she left Southern Accents shortly before the sale and found the financing for a new publication. Soon Veranda made its appearance.

The first issue was published in 1987, with Lisa's children helping with everything from office tasks to ad sales. Now Veranda has joined the roster of premier American shelter publications. Its advertising staff has been a key to its success.

Lola Battle, one of the never-give-up team of the original two-person advertising staff at Veranda, has wooed and won an impressive array of advertisers. (After this reporter had left the magazine as a design columnist, I was approached by the publisher of a competitor and asked, "What can we do about Lisa and Lola? They have a headlock on Atlanta advertisers!" My reply was simply, "Just try harder, and see if you can find yourself another Lisa and -- of course -- you will need a Lola!")

A November 2000 article in Atlanta Business Chronicle sums up Lisa's success: Ad pages up from 591 in 1999 to 749 in 2000; ad rates of almost $30,000 a page; reader median household income of $129,300, second only to Architectural Digest; paid circulation of 375,000, expected to reach 400,000 in 2001.

Photo courtesy of Veranda magazine.

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