Southern Progress Corporation, based in Birmingham, is a publisher of lifestyle magazines and books. The company publishes such magazines as Southern Living, Cooking Light, and Sunset. Today, its magazines have a combined readership of over 50 million. The company employs more than 800 people at its headquarters.
The origins of Southern Progress trace to 1886, with the The Progressive Farmer, a weekly newsletter, founded by Civil War veteran Leonidas LaFayette Polk in North Carolina. The newsletter was intended to bring the latest information on crop and livestock production to the newly united nation's agrarian economy in the Southeast. When Polk died in 1892, Clarence H. Poe from Raleigh, NC took over as editor, and in 1903, he and 3 partners purchased the publication, taking it from a newspaper to a magazine with 36,000 subscribers. Together they organized the Agricultural Publishing Company, the name of which was later changed to the Progressive Farmer Company. One of the most notable achievements of the Progressive Farmer magazine was its continual crusade and endorsement during the early twentieth century of the land grant college subsidies provided to Agricultural and Mechanical colleges across the United States.
The magazine broadened its reach beyond the Southeast by merging its Raleigh, North Carolina operation with the Southern Farm Gazette newspaper published in Starkville, Mississippi. This was a major innovation in publishing at the time. Merging these two farm publications established the first publication in history to publish regional editorial specific to its circulation areas. This merger of the Progressive Farmer and the Southern Farm Gazette resulted in the need to have a production and printing facility that would be a one day train trip to both of the editorial offices in Starkville, Mississippi and Raleigh, North Carolina for receiving the typewritten feature stories for publication. It was decided in 1911 to establish a central office in Birmingham1 while Clarence Poe and his partners remained in Raleigh and directed company operations from there. Business manager John Pearson managed the Birmingham office at 1702 4th Avenue North.
The Progressive Farmer Company continued to publish across the Southeastern and Mid-south regions soon expanding successfully into Texas and the Southwest. Serving farm information needs, publishing through two world wars, crusading for important rural farm issues such as rural electrification, soil conservation, rural education and modern agricultural technology, the magazine soared to a circulation high of 1.3 million by the 1960's.
In 1966, the management, led by Emory Cunningham and the editors of Progressive Farmer launched Southern Living magazine fashioned after the lifestyle and home life section in the Progressive Farmer. The Progressive Farmer had extended its appeal among suburban housewives, and that segment of its circulation received the new magazine, Southern Living to establish its distribution and advertising rate base. From the pages of Progressive Farmer rose the largest and most successful regional publication in history. Consequently, Progressive Farmer was able to editorially focus more completely on production agriculture and concentrate circulation efforts to the rural farm household. The launch of Southern Living was an outstanding strategic move for the Progressive Farmer Company.
In 1980, the Progressive Farmer Company changed its name to Southern Progress Corporation in an effort to reflect its wider focus. By this time, Southern Living had a subscription rate of two million and was among the top 15 U.S. magazines in monthly advertising revenue.
In the late 1980's until the early 1990's, Southern Progress began looking for a new corporate headquarters in the Birmingham area. They decided on a property located down the road from their current headquarters. A new facility was built next to Samford University and in front of the HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital. The 400,000-square-foot corporate campus at Lakeshore Drive features weekly tours and has been named one the most beautiful corporate campuses in the world. The campus also served an office for Time parent company, Time Inc.
In 1985, Southern Progress Corporation was purchased by Time,Inc.2 for $498 million, the most ever paid for a publishing company at the time.
In 2006, the company sold its Progressive Farmer magazine to DTN.
In 2015, Samford University bought the corporate campus from Time. Two of the three buildings became the home of its College of Health Sciences. The third building is now leased to for Southern Progress operations.
- Southern Living
- Cooking Light
- Coastal Living
- Southern Accents
- Cottage Living
- Progressive Farmer
- Leisure Arts
- Oxmoor House
- Sunset Books
- Southern Living at Home
- Hubbard, Russell (October 31, 2008). "Four top executives to leave Birmingham's Southern Progress publishing company". The Birmingham News. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
- Associated Press (January 26, 2000). "'Southern Living' founder Emory Cunningham dies". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
- Reed, Jon (November 3, 2014). "Samford University intends to buy Southern Progress campus from Time Inc." The Birmingham News.
- Southern Progress Corporation. (February 5, 2011). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 15, 2011.