Pearson to sell Financial Times to Japan’s Nikkei for £884m

July 23, 2015
How will people be reading the FT over breakfast  under Japanese ownership?

People will now be reading an FT over breakfast that is under Japanese ownership

Japan’s Nikkei media group has announced it is buying the Financial Times from Pearson for £884m. One of Japanese company’s English-language magazines, Nikkei Asian Review, quoted Tsuneo Kita, chairman and chief of Nikkei:

I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world. Our motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality, is very close to that of the FT. We share the same journalistic values. Together, we will strive to contribute to the development of the global economy.

The FT was founded in 1888, a dozen years after Nikkei. Both gave their names to their country’s main stock market indices, the Nikkei 225 and the FTSE 250. However, while Nikkei has also concentrated on publishing to build a paper that sells 3 million copies a day, the FT was bought up by Pearson, a company that was founded on road-building and developed into a conglomerate based around owing leading brands. It has bought and sold an astonishing range of companies. At one time, Pearson controlled the French vineyard Chateau Latour (which it sold to brewer and distiller Allied Lyons), merchant bank Lazard, Waterford glass, Wedgwood China, Alton Towers, Madame Tussaud wax works, Warwick Castle, the production company behind Australian TV soap Neighbours, Thames TV, multimedia developer Mindscape, Future Publishing, an oil services group, Penguin and Dorling Kindersley. In recent years, Pearson has placed famous educational publishing names such as Longman, Prentice-Hall, Addison-Wesley and Pitman under the Pearson Education branding. Marjorie Scardino, who made her name running the half-FT-owned Economist, focused the group, but famously said Pearson would sell the FT ‘over my dead body’. She was in the job for 16 years, saw Pearson through the dotcom boom and bust, and left having doubled the share price – a record that compares well with peer companies. John Fallon, her successor from January 2013, showed little enthusiasm for the paper, however, and is seen as having starved the FT of investment while messing up the rest of the now education-based Pearson. Within a year of Fallon taking over, the share price dropped sharply and 30 months later has barely recovered to what it was at the start of his tenure in 2013. In that time, peers such as the Daily Mail group has put 60% on its share price; RelX (Reed Elsevier) 70%; and Wolters Kluwer 80%. The deal with Nikkei does not include the half stake in the Economist, but does cover the FT‘s magazine arm, which includes Investor’s Chronicle. In all the takeover chatter, there has been much talk of the FT‘s independence. Strangely, the FT is the only paper that vaunts its owner’s name on its front page, a valuable form of free advertising that Pearson is now sure to lose. Also, it will have to start paying the FT for the use of its brand on the scores of management books it publishes under the paper’s imprint. The loss of such a big British-based asset as the FT again raises the question – often asked of the Texan Scardino early in her tenure – of whether Pearson might up sticks for the US, where most of its sales now lie. It will also be interesting to see whether the paper’s Lex column starts to write about Pearson – a ban that has been described as ‘self-imposed’ but dates back to the ‘aluminium war’ of 1959 involving a takeover battle for British Aluminium. Lex sided against the view of Lazard, the blue-blooded merchant bank in which Pearson, which had only recently bought the FT, had a big stake. It caused a big stink at the time. The Lex writers seem to have taken the view that discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to your owners. A view has been expressed that the lack of coverage in what was once the column that laid down the law on the City has held back Pearson’s share price. Will Lex cover Nikkei I wonder?

Greenslade’s mystery of Woman’s Own solved

July 19, 2015
A cover of woman's Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A cover of woman’s Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A friend pointed me in the direction of a Roy Greenslade Guardian blog from 2012 that sets up a mystery as to when Women’s Own was founded by George Newnes – 1932, as both the magazine and Wikipedia state, or 1931, which I state on Magforum. I confess I must be wrong.

The earlier version of Woman's Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

The earlier version of Woman’s Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

I can confirm the existence of the earlier magazine with the same title, however. The British Library has Woman’s Own published by WB Horner’s from 1913, with the modest strapline ‘The best woman’s paper’. I’ve seen copies dated December 1913 and as late as December 1916. The BL has copies into 1917, when it seems it was ‘incorporated with Horner’ s Penny Stories‘. Its offices were at The Fleetway House, Farringdon, in London, the same address later used by Amalgamated Press, the magazine arm of the Harmsworth brothers publishing empire, which took over Horner’s.

The Bear Alley blog – which takes its name from the passage at the side of Fleetway House – has a history of Horner’s.

Woman’s Own is published to this day by Time Inc UK, alongside Woman. For much of their lives, however, the duo were deadly rivals. Woman’s Own was owned by George Newnes and Odhams launched Woman against it on 5 June 1937. They came together in the 1960s with the formation of IPC. These home-based women’s weeklies were massive sellers in their day, peaking in about 1960 with a combined weekly sale of nigh on 6 million copies a week.

 

Independent magazines – Shoreditch talk

July 9, 2015

Stack/Printout is holding an evening panel with three authors talking about independent magazines:

The venue is the Book Club in London’s Shoreditch: Tuesday 28th July, 6.30pm start.

Also, Stack founder Steven Watson is advertising for a full-time editor who knows independent mags.

Time turns NME into a freesheet

July 7, 2015

The image used to head the NME freeesheet  announcement The image used to head the NME freeesheet announcement

The message from Time Inc UK, the US-based  owner of what was IPC, came out as gobbledegook:

Iconic brand NME today announces the latest stage in its evolution as an audience-first global media business. As well as a new nme.com and digital products, in September NME will become a free weekly magazine. With music firmly at the heart of the brand, NME’s authority will be the gateway into a wider conversation around film, fashion, television, politics, gaming and technology.

According to Marcus Rich, chief executive:

This famous 63 year-old brand was an early leader in digital and has been growing its global audience successfully for the best part of 20 years. It has been able to do so because music is such an important passion and now is the right time to invest in bringing NME to an even bigger community for our commercial partners

NME was a digital pioneer for IPC, as both a driver of the Unzip CD-Rom and one of the company’s first websites, alongside New Scientist and Uploaded.com (who remembers that?). It is the last survivor of the ‘inkies’ – the tabloid weekly music papers that once numbered Melody Maker (which dated back to the 1920s and put a toilet roll on its last cover), Melody Maker, Disc, Record Mirror and Sounds – and sold in their hundreds of thousands.

Has such a freesheet strategy ever gone well for the magazine that started it all?

 

A winning magazine cover?

July 4, 2015
Home Chat, a leading women's popular weekly, from 14 May

Home Chat, a leading women’s popular weekly, from 14 May 1910

How’s this for a front cover? For Woman’s Own or Hello!, perhaps? Home Chat was a leading small format women’s weekly, which, surprisingly with such designs, survived until 1959 when it was merged into Woman’s Weekly.

Victorian advertising – snake oil for hairless magazine readers

July 2, 2015
Koko: Victorian hair advertising from Flashes magazine in 1892

Koko: Victorian hair advertising from Flashes magazine in 1892

Would you like to stop your hair falling out? Make it grow faster? Judging by this magazine advert for Koko, it was a simple ask to ensure ‘magnificent tresses’.

For Edwardian men it was moustashes, for women it was hair that attracted reams of such adverts promising the earth, or at least a straighter nose (another preoccupation for the Victorian consumer).

This advert was in Flashes magazine in 1892. The editor was B. Fairlee, author of The Mystery of a Type-Writer (of which there is no sign in the British Library’s online catalogue).

Marilyn Monroe magazines from 1953 on eBay

June 21, 2015

Picture Post from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell on the cover from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Picture Post from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell on the cover from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Among the 815,281 magazines presently listed on eBay in the UK are two classic illustrated weeklies with Marilyn Monroe covers. The first is Picture Post from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell on the cover from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Illustrated magazine from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable on the cover, from the film How to Marry a Millionaire Illustrated magazine from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable on the cover, from the film How to Marry a Millionaire

Second is Illustrated magazine from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable on the cover, from the film How to Marry a Millionaire.

Both these weekly magazines are priced at £29.99 from the Advertising Archives as buy-it-now or best offer lots.

Lilian Hocknell’s cute kids still have vintage value for women’s magazines

June 21, 2015
Lilian Hocknell artwork revived for Christmas 2014 Vintage View from Woman's Weekly magazine cover

Lilian Hocknell artwork revived for Christmas 2014 Vintage View from Woman’s Weekly magazine cover

Woman’s Weekly has been one of Britain’s most popular magazines for more than a century. The cover here is from a compilation magazine – Vintage View – of its past articles as owner Time UK exploits its archive. Although no signature is visible, it’s clearly by Lilian Hocknell, who was renowned for her illustrations of children in the art deco period leading up to the Second World War. You can even recognise the same cute toddler from this Mother cover of 1936:

Mother magazine cover of child with toys by Lilian Hocknell from November 1936

Mother magazine cover of child with toys by Lilian Hocknell from November 1936

Woman’s Weekly was originally published by Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press (later rebranded as Fleetway), which was one of the three big groups that formed IPC in the 1960s and is today controlled by the US published Time Inc.

In its late 1950s heyday, Woman’s Weekly sold 1.5m copies a week and was one of IPC’s ‘big three’ women’s weeklies that ruled the roost in that market until the arrival of new niches in the 1980s, such as Best from Germany and the celebrity weeklies such as Hello and Heat. The other members of that vaunted trio are Woman (originally Odhams Press) and Woman’s Own (George Newnes). In 1959, they were massive money spinners, selling in total about 7 million copies a week between them. Then, both Woman (3.2m copies a week) and Woman’s Own (2.4m) outsold Woman’s Weekly (1.5m). Today, all have dropped sales but Woman’s Weekly has overtaken its rivals. The respective totals are 252,000, 220,000 and   307,000.

More genius of colour printing – Vogue cover

June 20, 2015

 

The 'London Babes' cover from Vogue in December 1993

The ‘London Babes’ cover from Vogue in December 1993

This is a great issue of Vogue, with Danish fashion model Helena Christensen on the cover photographed by Nick Knight (his second Vogue cover, the first being the month before). Inside, is Steven Meisel’s ‘London Babes’ photoshoot styled by Isabella Blow. From a printing point of view, the cover is interesting for several reasons. The Blighty colour cover I discussed last week was printed colour letterpress. That technique produces quite a crude result compared with modern-day offset lithograph printing, which is used for most magazines today, including this 1993 Vogue. Nick Knight is renowned for his digital manipulation of photographs and as a proponent of its ‘extremely exciting’ possibilities.

Detail of Helena Christensen's eye from the cover of Vogue in December 1993

Detail of Helena Christensen’s eye from the cover of Vogue in December 1993

The detail of Helena Christensen’s eye from the Vogue cover demonstrates several things. First, the skin tones are purely made up of magenta dots. Compared with the Blighty cover, the dots are finer – more like 300 lines per inch than the 150 of the 1950s. Click on the images here to see them at a larger size. Notice how much blue there is in and around the eye – this looks to me as if a blue shadow has been added in Photoshop. Similarly with the blue highlights in the eyebrows and hair.

Detail of Helena Christiansen's lips from the Vogue cover

Detail of Helena Christensen’s lips from the Vogue cover

This close focus on Christensen’s lips shows a much higher density of the magenta, a tinge of yellow at the centre of the mouth and then a shadow of cyan, which becomes heavier moving to the right. Below is a a magnified image of the whole face, with the bottom of the G from the title across the forehead. This is printed in solid magenta.

Detail of Helena Christiansen's face from the Vogue cover

Detail of Helena Christiansen’s face from the Vogue cover

The genius of colour printing

June 19, 2015
Blighty pin-up cover for the popular men's weekly by MB Tompkins in 1958 (16 August)

Blighty pin-up cover for the popular men’s weekly by MB Tompkins in 1958 (16 August)

Colour printing has always seemed to me to be a bit of a miracle – seemingly every colour under the sun can be printed from just four colours, cyan (sky blue), magenta (a pinky red) yellow and black. The colours are abbreviated as CMYK – with K being black, the ‘key’ colour. In theory, the black is not necessary because the other three should merge to black, but in practice, the result is a bit washed out, more a murky brown.

In the 1950s, when this cover was printed, the colour painting of the glamorous dancer would have been photographed through a filter and a metal screen to produce a sheet of printing film for each colour. The screen would be a metal screen capable of showing 150 lines to the inch. The film would taped on to the other pieces of film of each colour for the rest of the page and then paired up with its partner page – the back cover in this case – and that assembled film used to make a printing plate for each colour. Each plate would have been wrapped around its cylinder on a four-unit press. When the paper is run through the press, each colour ink in its turn would have been passed from the printing plate on to the paper. The overprinting of the colours builds up the image.

Detail showing dots of printed ink from the lower face of Blighty magazine cover in 1958

Detail showing dots of printed ink from the lower face of Blighty magazine cover in 1958, Click on the picture to see it in more detail.

Look at the magnified detail here and you can see individual dots for each colour. In the bottom left, there are dots of pure cyan. You can see that the dots are in regular lines at an angle of about 10 degrees to the horizontal. In the darker blue areas, you can see black dots among the cyan. The skin tones are mainly magenta with yellow highlights. The red lips are a combination of magenta and yellow. The teeth are simply the white paper. You can make out some of all the colours in the black areas.

Blighty was a popular men’s weekly magazine published by City Magazines at 64 Fleet St, but it was printed 200 miles away by Eric Bemrose in Long Lane, Liverpool. The Long Lane plant closed down in 1991. The illustration was by MB Tompkins, an artist about whom I only know that he produced Blighty covers in 1958, and some pulp book covers.

MB Tompkins signature from Blighty magazine cover in 1958

MB Tompkins signature from Blighty magazine cover in 1958

 


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