Archive for the ‘brands’ Category

Sad times for great magazines in uncaring Time Inc hands

June 23, 2017
Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan

Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan – but are now half

Had an email yesterday morning from the editor of one of the biggest Time Inc UK weeklies asking for a correction to my listings – I had mistakenly said the title had closed. No problem I thought, but the request seemed a bit odd until I saw this Press Gazette headline later in the day – ‘UK magazine giant Time Inc puts 111 journalists at risk of redundancy‘.

Time Inc wants to group editorial staff on some of its biggest titles into one central ‘hub’, says Press Gazette. Really bad move – the result will be to blandise the titles and diminish their identity. No doubt it will also be the harbinger of more cuts to come. Central subbing units tend to be ideal targets for ‘outsourcing’ or moving to the far corners of the country.

The magazine titles involved include Woman & Home (£4.30; sales 319,000; 36% subs; about 10% multi-packed), Marie Clare (£3.99; 153,000 sales; 20% subs; 15% frees) and Look (90,000 fortnightly; 3% subs; 11% frees). Digital circulation adds about 1,000 to each figure. That’s two very different monthlies and a fortnightly all expected to be put together by the same people. I’m surprised the French owners of the Marie Clare name haven’t objected.

The company wants to cut 300 staff globally.

I felt it was bad news when the IPC owners sold the company to US-based Time Inc, and particularly when they dropped the IPC name. The moment you become a bracketed subsidiary of a company that ends in ‘Inc’, it never ends well (is it Time Inc (UK) or Time (UK) Inc? Should there be a Ltd at the end of that too?). So it has proved. The US owners have done nothing but sell off titles and have even sold their Blue Fin headquarters building in Borough, London, to lease it back. hardly the actions of a company in it for the long term.

In a recent post, I identified Country Life as a title that would be better off in other hands, rather than the business park in Farnborough that it gives as its address nowadays.

It’s a sad day that once-great names such as Newnes, AC Pearson, Odhams, Amalgamated, Fleetway and IPC – the ‘Ministry of Magazines’ of the 1970s – have been reduced to a ‘garage sale’ of brands in the hands of uncaring American masters.


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

 

 


 

 

 

Bovril’s spiky type

May 24, 2016

 

Bovril's spikey type on ad advert from the New Penny Magazine in 1900

Bovril’s spiky type on an advert from the New Penny Magazine in 1900

Bovril’s Victorian adverts were often striking and the company established a brand that is still famous today. I particularly like an 1892 image of Hercules fighting a lion. The later, half-page advert above is very different and notable for its spiky type.

It’s difficult to avoid seeing that image – notice the way the advert is framed with white space around to ensure it stands away from other images on the page. The text is all about broadening the market for a food that was invented to fortify troops fighting in the Crimean War.

‘Fabulous’ pays off for the ‘Sun on Sunday’

November 12, 2015
The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

Most of today’s tabloid newspapers were founded by magazine barons – the Mail, Express and Mirror. The exception is the Sun, but it is well aware of the selling power of its supplements, so much so that when parent company News UK closed down the News of the World in 2011, its Fabulous magazine was moved across to the new Sun on Sunday when the daily started coming out on Sundays six months later.

Last Sunday’s edition plastered images of the supplement across the front page to promote five covers devoted to the members of boy band One Direction: Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, with a fifth cover of the boy band members together. There was similar marketing online and the special 1D magazine was also pushed in the Sun on the previous four days. The aim is to attract younger readers – and hopefully get people to buy more than one copy of the paper. It’s a strategy that appears to pay off – sets of the five One Direction magazines have sold on eBay for up to £49.99! A classic piece of brand marketing using popular celebrities.

The promos in the paper read:

With Zayn Malik’s departure and the decision to take a break in 2016, it’s been a tumultuous year for One Direction. In this week’s Fabulous, Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam reveal how they reacted when Zayn quit the band, what they plan to do with their time off and why this is definitely not the end for 1D.

There are also five covers to collect – share yours with us using the hashtag #Fabulous1D!

Don’t miss Fabulous, free with The Sun on Sunday. For more, go to Fabulousmag.co.uk

Magazines like this also allow the paper to focus on a specific part of the readership – presumably teenage girls in this case. It’s a strategy that the Mail on Sunday has played really well over the years with its women-focused You supplement and the Financial Times with its How to Spend It monthly for millionaires. Yet, when Fabulous was launched, former Guardian editor Peter Preston argued in a column that it was too far removed from the paper’s main readership.

Here’s one of the covers – but don’t ask me who it is!

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

>>>Britain’s national newspapers profiled

Chilprufe and Lilian Hocknell’s babies

October 7, 2015
Chilprufe advert from Queen magazine in 1961Chilprufe advert from Queen magazine in 1961

Chilprufe advert from Queen magazine in 1961

Chilprufe was once one of the biggest British clothing makes – the name derives frim ‘chill-proof’. It favoured illustration for its advertising of babies in its clothes, and the artist of choice in the 1920s and 1930s was Lilian Hocknell (1891-1977).

However, by the 1960s the company had turned to other artists, as this illustration from Queen magazine in 1961 shows. Chilprufe’s sans-serif typeface is still vogue, however. Bonhams sold a set of 12 drawings in 2008 and Hocknell’s work is also held by the V&A.

I don’t know the 1961 illustrator, but it has a more ‘modern’ feel. Would it be more appealing to potential customers though? Compare it with the 1936 advert below and make your own mind up.

By 2012, Chilprufe’s Leicester factory was specialising in lingerie and knitwear but the 90-year-old firm closed that year and the name was bought up by Manchester Hosiery Manufacturing of Hinckley. Goods are still made under the brand and can be found online.

Lillian Hocknell advertising illustration for Chilprufe children’s clothing. From Mother magazine 1936 – note the spelling error

Lillian Hocknell advertising illustration for Chilprufe children’s clothing. From Mother magazine 1936 – note the spelling error

‘The Super Moshis need YOU’ – the powerful language of propaganda

August 25, 2015

The advertising watchdog has criticised Mind Candy for tempting children

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority berated Mind Candy on Tuesday. The offence committed by the online company was using adverts inside Moshi Monsters to encourage the game’s young players to pester their parents for paid add-ons and subscriptions.

The problem has come up before with adverts even in games back in the 1980s, but it wasn’t this that grabbed my attention: it was the wording in the adverts.

Alfred Leete's 'Your Country Needs You' London Opinion cover inspired a Great War advertising campaign

Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ London Opinion cover

Among the copy used were the phrases ‘The Super Moshis need YOU! Rise to the challenge and join the Super Moshis in their crusade’ alongside prominent calls to action such as ‘JOIN NOW’. This is the language of advertising from the Edwardian era and the propaganda posters of the First World War. The Moshi pages make frequent use of the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ to attract children’s attention and make them feel they are being spoken to directly. A classic market technique in 1914 and still effective now.

Black-and-white artist Alfred Leete used exactly that construction when he did his 1914 London Opinion magazine cover of Lord Kitchener that was taken up so powerfully as a government recruiting poster.

Millions of men volunteered to fight and die in the mud of France, enticed to join up by the ‘Your Country Needs You’ magazine covers and posters. In today’s consumer world, it’s children’s pocket money that the likes of Mind Candy are after with ‘Super Moshis need YOU!’.

One for the magazine collector

August 15, 2015

I spoke to James Hyman last year who runs the Hyman Archive and I send people there when they start thinking they have a problem storing their magazine collection. This is just a great picture (and links to a video from his website):

James Hyman in his archive - happy as a...?

James Hyman in his archive – happy as a…?

The James Hyman magazine archive holds 50,000 issues. My collection is trivial compared with this, but then I do say I spend my time trying not to collect magazines. I look for evidence of change and watersheds in the industry. However, even if I were to have just the first, last and one other copy of every one of the 7,000 titles published in Britain today, that would be 21,000 magazines!  And in that context, even Hyman’s archive is just a toe in the water.

Take the monthly fashion glossy Vogue, just the British edition, first published in 1916.

Vogue from 1918 - beware, it's bigger than it looks

Vogue from 1918 – beware, it’s bigger than it looks

That’s 100 years of a monthly. So, you think, 100 x 12 magazines = 1200. At 25 in a box, that’s 48 boxes. Manageable. But then you discover that Vogue came out pretty much twice a month into the 1970s (notice the dateline on the one above – late May 1918). So it turns out you need 80 boxes, each with a footprint larger than A4. Have you ever tried moving a box of 25 Vogues? Believe me, you won’t want to do it very often.

And that’s before you discover the spin-offs, such as Vogue Knitting and Vogue Beauty (which were merged into the main magazine because of paper rationing during the wars). Surely you will be tempted by a few French, Italian, US and Japanese issues? (Don’t be – there are 125 different editions; I think one of the Indian issues was the biggest, the thickness of a telephone directory.) But you’d also have to let in the classy 1960s Men in Vogue (luckily it was only two or four times a year for five years). Then what about Men’s Vogue (again, didn’t last long)? The dress patterns? Media packs? Band-on supplements? Cover gifts? – the tacky flip-flops, beach bags and paperbacks really mess up the 25 in a box plan.

Before you know it, the collector in you has amassed 5,000 magazines, and is still only halfway to satisfying that acquisitive urge – and that is just one title.

So, before you get into too much deep paper, do a bit of planning. Limit your storage space, and, once it’s near full, adopt a one-in, one-out strategy. Don’t use wine boxes because a full wine box will be too heavy to lift 10 years from now; also, the weight will flatten the spines of perfect-bound magazines such as Vogue. Keep them downstairs. But do use sturdy boxes so they don’t fall apart, offer some protection when dropped (I once had a wall of shelves full of magazines collapse on me at college) and can be sealed to keep out spiders, insects and mice.

If you collect more than one magazine, how are you going to arrange them? By date? By title? By sector? Depends on why you want them and plan to use them. Be careful to buy the correct storage bag sizes if you plan to store them that way – but watch the pages don’t catch on a bag’s sticky sealing strips as they come in and out. Also, the bags slide off each other very easily, so the magazines can’t be just piled up. Do store them well though, because the condition is so important when you come to sell them.

Finally, you’ll want to catalogue them. I have 3 essential lists, all 2.5Mb-2.9Mb wordprocessor files with basic facts such as title, date, price, publisher and editor, along with notes about writers, designers, illustrators, unusual features, etc. And if you want to trade, don’t forget sources and prices. My files aren’t online (total lack of planning), but the saintly Phil Stephensen-Payne and his Philsp website are an absolute boon for research into the contents of so many magazines.

You’ll find some more (hopefully useful) comments on my Magazine Collecting page.

In the meantime, I find myself asking myself: why haven’t I taken my own advice? Happy collecting.

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’.

Scardino 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?

The fall of the lads: Loaded and Clarkson

April 1, 2015
The May 1994 first issue of Loaded - a landmark title under James Brown

The May 1994 first issue of Loaded – a landmark title under James Brown

There’s a certain irony that Loaded, the magazine credited with sparking the lad’s mag boom under editor James Brown, announced it was closing last month, just as the BBC drew the curtains on Jeremy Clarkson’s tenure fronting Top Gear. Loaded  is closing, with the last issue, dated April,  published on March 26.

Loaded was launched by IPC (now Time UK) with the strap line ‘For men who should know better.’ It seems incredible now, but Loaded and its arch rival FHM once shifted more than a million copies a month between them. The better-selling, babe-infested FHM even topped Cosmopolitan, then the best-selling women’s  monthly, in the sales stakes.

An in-your-face spread from Loaded in May 1995

Influential design: an in-your-face spread from Loaded in May 1995

And Loaded was not just influential in its sector, it rode the wave of irreverence led by Viz (1979) and TV series such as Men Behaving Badly  (1992) to help pave the way for the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and the BBC’s TV mega-hit Top Gear (2002). Emap furthered the trend not just by buying up and relaunching the 1985-founded FHM but also by bringing out Minx in 1996 – ‘For girls with a lust for life’. Furthermore, Loaded‘s design attitude spread throughout the magazine industry, both in the UK and overseas.

However, IPC sold Loaded in October 2010 to Vitality. Although its sales once regularly exceeded a quarter of a million, IPC offloaded Loaded as part of a sale of several ‘niche’ titles. In truth, Loaded had been dead on its feet for a long time, the latest in a line of lad’s mags to bite the dust. Yet, they helped expand the mainstream men’s magazine sector, which is now more vibrant than at any time.

At the lads’ end of things, the two survivors are Bauer’s monthly FHM – selling about 75,000 copy a month, a tenth of the total at its peak in the mid 1990s – and the weekly Zoo, selling 30,000.

It just seems a shame that, even as Clarkson goes out with a bang, the equally loud-mouthed Loaded is going out with a whimper.

The self-referential magazine cover

April 1, 2015
The Penny Magazine shows itself being sold from what looks like a railway station stall in 1904

The Penny Magazine shows itself being sold from what looks like a railway station stall in 1904

Self-referential magazine cover covers are a not-so-subtle form of marketing and are pretty rare, but they do crop up, seemingly more often on weekly magazines than monthlies. It’s a brand marketing strategy, though that is not likely to have been a term on anyone’s lips at the time the front cover above was published.

This is the earliest one I’ve noticed, from 1904. It plugs not only itself but its sister magazine from publishers Cassell, the monthly Cassell Magazine, which cost 6d. This strategy of having a cheap weekly and upmarket monthly was common for publishers in the Victorian and Edwardian era. The Penny Magazine had been founded in 1898 as the New Penny Magazine, shortening the name in 1903 and continuing until 1925. The story-based sister monthly was published under various titles from 1853 to 1932. Other magazines shown or partly visible are three titles for children,  Chums (1892-1934), Quiver (1861-1926) and Little Folks; and Cassell’s Saturday Journal (1883-1924) again all from Cassell.

The black-and-white cover illustration with its red spot colour is not a particularly well-crafted image, but then most of these penny weeklies were pretty cheap. It is signed  E Lander, probably Edgar Lander (1872–1958). The quality of some titles improved as sales grew for those titles from the likes of Newnes and Harmsworth that were able to achieve very high sales.

penny_magazine_1904sep17_edgar_lander.jpg

Illustrator Edgar Lander’s signature

Lander worked for several better-produced magazines, including  Harmsworth’s Boys’ Friend comic and  Royal magazine. He was married to another artist, Hilda Cowham (1873-1964), whose signature character was a flighty young girl in a black pinny and white bow with a black cat who appeared in magazines such as Home Chat, Home Notes and Pick Me Up. She did cuter, more homely girls who were used on pottery and for London Underground posters. In The Strand of August 1913 (US edition) Cowham wrote and illustrated an article ‘Amusing Children I Have Met’ in which she talked about receiving letters from ‘mothers saying that they have dressed their little ones like a Hilda Cowham girl’.

Lander’s drawing portrays a railway bookstall of the kind run by WH Smith and Wyman & Sons. No actual cover is shown on the stall, just the magazines’ titles. The uniformed lad with his sales tray looks like he may be selling maps and guides. Note that the Penny Magazine describes itself as being for travellers and commuters – ‘for rail, road, river or sea’.

Cassell is a name that dates back to 1848, when the company was founded by John Cassell. The magazines were an offshoot of his book publishing and were probably regarded as a way of developing writers and promoting established names. Cassell ceased being an independent publisher in 1999 – a decade of concentration in book publishing – when it was bought up by Orion Publishing Group, itself owned by the French group Lagardère. Today, Cassell is an illustrated imprint of Octopus Publishing.

The Victorian book that inspired the WorldWide Web

March 31, 2015
Title page from the 1896 edition of Enquire Within Upon Everything by Houlston & Sons

Title page from the 1896 edition of Enquire Within Upon Everything by Houlston & Sons

Just watched Martha Lane-Fox on the BBC arguing for Dot Everyone, an institution that would promote all things digital, in her Dimbleby lecture. (Nice to see that her dad, Robin, an Oxford history don, FT gardening writer and historical adviser on Oliver Stone’s Alexander the Great, still corrects the split infinitives in her lectures!) Inspiring stuff.

In his book on how the WorldWide Web came about, its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, describes how the ideas behind the web – and an early version of it, a program called Enquire – were inspired by a Victorian book. In the Q&A section on the W3 website Berners-Lee writes:

Q: How did you come to arrive at the idea of WWW?

A: I arrived at the web because the Enquire (E not I) program – short for Enquire Within Upon Everything, named after a Victorian book of that name full of all sorts of useful advice about anything – was something I found really useful for keeping track of all the random associations one comes across in Real Life and brains are supposed to be so good at remembering but sometimes mine wouldn’t. It was very simple but could track those associations which would sometimes develop into structure as ideas became connected, and different projects become involved with each other.

Enquire Within was published from 1856 by Houlston and Sons of Paternoster Square, just north of St Paul’s Cathedral. Such was its success that 40 years later it was in its 89th edition, having sold more than a million copies. It sparked a publishing craze both at the time and for decades later: in 1937, for example, Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press published Everybody’s Enquire Within in weekly parts over a year under editor Charles Ray. (Perhaps Martha should have chosen the name Dot Everybody.) Today, a free edition is available from Project Gutenberg and many other versions have been reprinted and are sold online.

Enquire Within: Ladies Home Journal from 1894

Enquire Within: Ladies Home Journal from 1894

The Victorians were voracious in their quest for knowledge. Enquire Within fed this demand and no doubt influenced the founding of the two great magazine publishing sensations of the 1880s – Tit-Bits (From all the most interesting books, periodicals and contributors in the world) from George Newnes and Alfred Harmsworth’s Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun. The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack was first published in 1864; Whitaker & Sons launched its Almanac in 1868; and Pears Soap launched its Cyclopaedia in 1897. The magazine cover here, Enquire Within: Ladies Home Journal, is from 1893. Just as other publishers of books and reference works copied Houlston’s idea more directly, so did magazine publishers. In this case, it was the Popular Publishing Co. of 83 Farringdon Street, at the east end of  Fleet Street and a stone’s throw west from Paternoster Square. A later magazine inspired by the idea was The Handyman’s Enquire Within, a partwork published by Cassell in 24 issues from 1907.

The title was taken up again by TV presenter Moyra Bremner as Enquire Within Upon Everything: The complete home reference book in 1988 and Enquire Within Upon Modern Etiquette: And successful behaviour for today a year later (both Century Publishing).

You would have thought such an inspiring idea would merit a plaque in Paternoster Square, but the area was flattened by bombing in the London Blitz. It’s been rebuilt as a shopping/office complex, but is now a private estate and many maps do not even name the square or Paternoster Row. On Streetmap, for example, it’s just a blank area to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral.