David Hepworth knows his magazines. It’s an impression that is reinforced every time I read his Guardian column. He – and his Emap alumni at Development Hell – are also a reminder of what Emap has lost.
Twenty years ago, East Midland Allied Press was a regional newspaper running around biting the ankles of IPC with magazines such as Smash Hits and PC User (and demonstrating the digital future with Micronet). But in 1999 it tried to throw its weight around in the US. In retrospect, the £700m loss on Petersen was a shock that destroyed the company’s corporate touch.
It is fours years since Emap last demonstrated how launching a magazine should be done – Grazia was inspired. Now, it seems to have forgotten how to run a company – just look at the way its French arm went down the tubes. It’s been bad news all over, with closures galore, the demise of FHM in the US, and Emap couldn’t even pick the right paper size for the Car relaunch.
So Tom Moloney’s departure was no surprise.
He’s come a long way since he arrived with the company as advertisement director of Educational Computing. David Arculus, who with Robin Miller led the expansion of magazines at Emap, has called Moloney ‘the most talented person I’d ever met’. (Though Moloney is not the only advertising boss of Educational Computing who could lay claim to such a title – Seven Publishing founder Seamus Geoghegan being the other.)
Emap cast around for six months before appointing Moloney in 2003, but had been spoilt for choice – between Arculus and Miller – in 1997. It’s unlikely to be spoilt for choice now.
As for Hepworth, his latest column gives a thumbs-up to ‘classic glossy’ Portfolio as a lure for wealthy readers but feels Monocle should be a TV programme (which, ironically, is what founder Tyler Brûlé tried to do before the magazine). Condé Nast’s Portfolio is ‘full of long pieces that nobody will read and little boxy things that everybody will’. If only everything were that simple.