Archive for the ‘ACP-NatMag’ Category

This month in magazines: She’s sunny Februarys

February 15, 2017

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

Bikini days for She in February 1977

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

… and again in February 1978

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1979

…and in February 1979

In Britain, February is not a time of year normally associated with bikinis, so I was surprised to find these February covers for the monthly She from 1977-79. There was even a January 1975 cover of a bikini-clad model on a ski slope! Why are the models all in bikinis? To attract holiday advertising? No, after a bit of research, it emerged that women in bikinis were the most popular covers for She right through the Seventies. In 1978, no less than eight of the 10 covers I could track down were bikini shots. That’s a feel-good strategy: bringing a ray of sunshine into women’s lives every month!

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

But this is usual, perhaps even typical. As long ago as 1920, Punch was jesting about the predictability of women’s magazine covers. Yet, editorially, She was not a typical magazine. For a start, two people shared the editor’s post in the 1970s: Pamela Carmichael and Michael Griffiths. It was more like a weekly in a monthly format, with a particular strength in witty picture captions (Tim Rostron, whom I worked with on weekly trade papers, got himself a job as a sub-editor at She on the strength of his captioning skills). Its cover motto in the late 1970s was ‘There’s nothing quite like She.’

The first issue was March 1955 with Joan Werner Laurie as editor. Its motto then was: ‘young, gay elegant’. She was fond of repeating its logo several times on the cover, either reduced in size as part of its motto (as in two of the February issues above) or full size (there were three down the left side of the launch issue cover design).

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Laurie’s partner was Nancy Spain, who was a household name thanks to her appearances on radio and TV shows such as Woman’s HourWhat’s My Line and Juke Box Jury, and her weekly column in the Daily Express. They were a real go-getting pair – but came to a tragic end in a light aeroplane crash on the way to the 1964 Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool. Laurie was learning to fly at the time. The biography, A Trouser-Wearing Character – The Life and Times of Nancy Spain, was written by Rose Collis.

She magazine bit the dust in 2011 after more relaunches than you could shake a stick at from its owner, The National Magazine Company, then known as ‘NatMags’ and now Hearst UK (it is owned by the US-based Hearst Corp).

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

The future of women’s magazines

January 11, 2015

BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour ran an interview last week on the ‘Future of Women’s Magazines‘, which is available on iPlayer. The programme summary is:

Readerships of print magazines are falling in favour of digital and mobile editions. Is online a poor substitute for the real thing or is that view outdated? We get some magazine editors [including the editors of Elle and Libertine] together to ask what is the future of women’s magazines and what are they doing to survive?

This programme also featured part of an interview with the magazine journalist Alice Head, part of the Woman’s Hour Collection, who from 1924 was the second editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and worked with Lord Alfred Douglas and William Randolph Hearst. She also set up the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Hearst tests out online shops

December 19, 2012

Hearst International president Duncan Edwards has described the various online shopping experiments the company is running to the FT’s Vanessa Friedman. There have been many such attempts by publishers, Happy, for example was a shopping magazine and website from Northern & Shell in 2005.  

  • ShopBazaar in the US is a website linked to Harper’s Bazaar that allows uses to buy products mentioned in the monthly fashion magazine. Condé Nast has competing efforts from Lucky and Allure.
  • In Japan, there is an Elle magazine shop. This is independent of the magazine and has broken even after about two years. Monocle has its own shops selling branded goods as well as a website.
  • In China, Hearst has an Elle site that links to different vendors, but brings buyers back to a common check-out.

Edwards reckons that ‘On average, of the 1,000 users who visit an esite from a magazine, only one converts into a buyer.’

These experiments in ‘monetising’ magazine brands leave Friedman feeling ‘queasy’ because of the blurring of the lines between editorial and commercial activities but some would argue the line was crossed many years ago by the big fashion magazines.

Hearst in £574m deal over Elle rights

March 30, 2011

US group Hearst – owner of NatMags in the UK – is to pay French media group Lagardere €651m for control of its international magazines, including UK arm Hachette Filipacchi, Press Gazette reports.

The agreement includes Elle (in the US, Russia & Ukraine, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Mexico, Taiwan, Canada and Germany) among 102 Lagardère print titles in 15 countries as well as 50 websites and mobile and tablet apps.

Other titles include Woman’s Day, Car & Driver and Cycle World in the US, Red in the UK and Holland.

Lagardère will continue to own the Elle trademark and receive royalties. Before the deal, Lagardère was the largest magazine publisher in the world. Hearst will strengthen its international portfolio against Vogue publisher Conde Nast.

NatMags profile
Hachette Filipacchi profile
Lagardère website
Hearst website
Conde Nast profile

Who could buy Radio Times and Loaded?

September 29, 2010

It seems like some of the jewels in the crown of British magazines are up for sale – from BBC Worldwide’s Radio Times to IPC’s Loaded.

But who could buy them? The future for Loaded is tricky with the Guardian talking of alarm at the offshore companies with porn links seemingly lined up as a buyer by IPC. But IPC’s future is undoubtedly being driven in the US with owner Time-Life’s need to generate cash.

Radio Times has long laid claim to two records – as Britain’s most profitable title (over £20m a year is the figure touted) and the record best-selling magazine (8,832,579 copies – ‘the largest sale of any weekly magazine in the world’ in the period coinciding with the launch of ITV in 1955).  Even with all the launches in the TV listings sector, it’s still a top 3 seller and the upmarket readership ensures high ad rates, as former Radio Times editor Gill Hudson pointed out at the weekend.

Whoever took over the title – or took an equity share – would need three things:

  • big financial resources;
  • expertise in weeklies;
  • experience in running a joint venture.

The biggest companies – Bauer and IPC – have their own listings titles and a tie-up or share of Radio Times going to these companies would probably be politically difficult. IPC is trying to find cash rather than splash out, though German group Bauer is very much a long-term operator and has experience of running listings magazines in continental Europe.

Next up is Cosmopolitan publisher National Magazines. It has a similar market share to BBC Magazines, but might be able to call on the resources of Hearst, its US parent, and has weekly expertise in Best, Real People and Reveal – though even their combined sales do not match the 947,131 a week of Radio Times. NatMags has also run joint ventures with other US and Australian groups. There is also the other US offshoot, Conde Nast, but it has no weekly credentials and has been having a torrid time in the US and money would be tight.

Future has refocused in recent years and shows every sign of sticking to its last.

Another name jumps into the frame though. The Guardian Media Group has a 41% chunk of Seven, whose founder, Seamus Geoghegan is a former BBC Worldwide director who launched Gardeners’ World and ran other titles; it also has a stake in Word and has long controlled the Auto Trader group. But what about the money? The Guardian Media Group called on private equity group Apax to put together a £1bn deal to take over Emap’s trade titles.

Private equity has played a big role in the past couple of decades, of course, with Cinven buying out IPC from Reed before selling it on to Time.

The Guardian and the BBC both have ambitions in the US but GMG has seen recent changes at the top – would this deter a Radio Times move, or proffer a chance for reecently installed chief executive Andrew Miller to make his mark?

Rossetto was right about Wired

March 19, 2010

In December 1988, Redwood/BBC Magazines tried to launch a monthly technology magazine, Tomorrow’s World. The TV series had big viewing figures – it was scheduled after Top of the Pops – but the title was a failure. It had hoped for 80,000 sales, yet came in with 61,314 (you can watch old episodes of the programme on the BBC’s archive website).

Gruner + Jahr had made a better fist of it with Focus, which is still around selling 71,783 a month and ended up, ironically, in the hands of the BBC after passing through Nat Mags when G+J folded its UK operations.

Then, the Guardian had a crack with cyberfocused Wired in a joint venture with the US parent. It hit the streets to much fanfare in March 1995 and returned an early ABC figure of 29,712. But relations fell apart, the Guardian pulled out, Wired Ventures announced big losses in the UK and Japan in 1996 and the plug was pulled in February 1997. Conde Nast, which owned 10% of the US parent, showed no interest in coming to its rescue.

Twelve years later though, Conde Nast owns the whole Wired caboodle and launches a UK edition, which turns in a first ABC last month of 48,275. That figure though hides 8,200 copies outside the UK, 10,000 subs at below rate and 10,000 freebies. So full-price newstand sales come out at just 19,280 copies. Gulp.

There’s a question mark over whether the UK is big enough for such a cool technology title. As with so many sectors – such as sports and news magazines – there is just too much coverage in the papers to compete with. Back in 1995, Media Week put the split between the Guardian and Wired Ventures down to the attitude of Wired’s founder, Louis Rossetto (‘Taut Wired finally snaps’, 4 August):

‘Louis liked the idea of a UK edition,’ says a Guardian insider, ‘but in practice he wasn’t that keen.’ There were said to be two problems – first that Rossetto believed that Wired was a global phenomenon, and therefore that the idea of radically different local editions was anathema.

To my mind, Rossetto was right. Applying a Vogue model of local editions to a borderline market won’t work. Esquire’s failed UK edition in the 1950s jumps to mind as a good comparison (and today’s is hardly a ringing success), as is Condé Nast’s Men in Vogue in the 1960s. Also, it tends to be forgotten that what drove the launch of British Vogue was the fact that the first world war made shipping it over from the US impossible.

Far better to look to the Monocle model with a true internationalist’s eye on the world from London.

Kelsey ‘disgusted’ by women’s weekly magazines

February 25, 2009

‘Shocked, bewildered and disgusted, – that’s  former Cosmo editor Linda Kelsey’s reaction to today’s women’s weekly magazines.

Writing in Saturday’s Daily Mail, Kelsey pinpoints headlines such as:

  • ‘Incest Mum Shock: Sex with my son sets me on fire.’
  • ‘Why I want my daughter to be a hooker like me!’
  • ‘What was sticking out of his bum?’

She scanned the covers of 17 weeklies, totting up 20 coverlines relating to killing, dying or stabbing. Some of the graphic details were ‘too shocking for a family newspaper’ [like the Daily Mail – interestingly, the Sun doesn’t carry a Page 3 model on Saturdays because the kids are around at the weekend].

Much of the blame/credit for the change in the women’s weeklies can be laid at the door of Paul Merrill with the sense of the bizarre he gave Chat, with its photograph of a woman’s enormous tumour and condom-in-the-soup stories. Back in 2004, such skills landed him the job of editor of lad’s weekly Zoo.

In 2007, Kelsey spoke out about the lack of black cover models.

Women’s weeklies

Magazine ABCs – little good news

February 12, 2009

All the big publishers saw their total sales fall, with Bauer taking a hit of 8.5% year on year (total sales: 4.17m), says a Guardian analysis. As for the others:

  • IPC down 6.3% (7.49m);
  • BBC down 4.6% (3.80);
  • National Magazine down 5.8% (3.49m);
  • Conde Nast down 1.2% (1.63m);
  • Future down 2.9% (1.56m).

Press Gazette picks out the highs and the lows for smaller groups. Haymarket lost 9.5% of its total circulation. The highs? ‘There weren’t any.’

Media Week piles on the bad news for Richard Desmond, whose OK! weekly has been tabled as a possible closure in the US, by leading on Bauer’s Closer leapfrogging OK! in the UK to become the celebrity weekly with the highest circulation.

Marie Claire editor O’Riordan to leave

October 17, 2008

Marie O’Riordan is stepping down as editor of IPC’s Marie Claire after seven years at the helm. The Guardian reports that: ‘I’m off to fresh woods’. It’s undoubtedly been a tough time, with the launch of Glamour, InStyle and Grazia on her watch. Also, Glenda Bailey – now at Harper’s Bazaar in US – was a hard act to follow. O’Riordan pointed to the level of competition in a 2006 Independent article:

‘Last time the magazine did some serious navel-gazing was in September 2004, but, 20 issues later, there has been a raft of launches and relaunches into our space. We’ve never had this much competition and it’s especially challenging for us now since many “me-toos” have stolen elements of Marie Claire‘s distinctive offering.’

Glamour took the women’s lifestyle/fashion sector by storm in 2001, leaving both Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire trailing in its wake – they even had to copy its handbag format. At 551,351sales a month to Cosmo‘s 470,735 and Marie Claire‘s 316,765, it shows little sign of faltering.

O’Riordan has held up her end for IPC in the face of the onslaught from Natmags and Conde Nast, but she will be remembered for putting men on the cover for the first time, in the shape of David Beckham and later Brad Pitt.

Woem’s monthlies profiled

Mygazines loses court action

October 9, 2008, a website that scans entire issues of magazines – including GQ and Marie Claire – and puts them online, has lost a legal copyright case in the US to a group of  publishers, says Press Gazette.

History of digital magazines