Archive for the ‘brands’ Category

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.

£10 to New York and the inflight magazine

March 17, 2015
Freddie Laker's Skylines magazine cover from 1981

Freddie Laker’s Skylines magazine cover from 1981

One of the most popular online stories yesterday morning was Jane Wild’s story about Ryanair working towards £10 transatlantic flights.

Such cheap flights from Europe to the Americas have long been a dream – most famously espoused by Freddie Laker with Skytrain in the 1980s. So popular were Laker’s flights that the US embassy in London had processed 300,000 non-immigrant visas by April 1981 – and was expecting a total of 1m for the year. This meant there would be as many Britons going to the US as US citizens holidaying in Britain – and the rise was attributed to Laker by the US consul. Yet, as Wild points out, no airline has managed to run a transatlantic service offering rock-bottom fares and turn a profit. Some went bust trying, including Sir Freddie’s Skytrain in 1982.

And for every airline, there is usually an airline magazine. The 1981 Skylines cover shown here summarises the typical contents for such magazines, then and now:

  • Dustin Hoffman – a dust of celebrity sparkle;
  • Wine without tears – encouraging readers to dip into the duty free and buy more drinks;
  • The Laker story (and the cover) – it’s marketing material after all;
  • Money wars – business and finance for the executive travellers they are keen to attract;
  • About your flight – answering the questions and pushing other services;
  • Short story – for those who want to switch off.

But the 1980s was the era of deregulation, and by 1985, the US airline People Express and Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic were following Laker in taking the transatlantic fight to British Airways. And just as BA has been the airline to beat on that route, for the past 40 years BA’s High Life has been the inflight magazine – and for much of that time the contract magazine – to beat (I remember ‘whoops’ in the office when the InterCity magazine I was editing for British Rail beat High Life in the National Readership Survey).

Cover of BOAC's inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Cover of BOAC’s inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Before BA and High Life, there was BOAC and its Welcome Aboard, where the covers focused on encouraging exotic international travel and used relaxing poster covers devoid of cover lines. These days, High Life magazine ‘gets in front of over three million people every year, who spend an average of 36 minutes reading it’, says its customer publisher, Cedar. And it has spun off lots of add-ons, becoming more than a magazine, with a travel website, iPad app, social media content and inflight entertainment package.

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

Cedar also boasts that High Life uses ‘some of the best editors, writers and photographers in the world, including Michael Palin, John Simpson and Rankin’. And that’s certainly true of many customer magazines. InterCity was launched by former Nova and Observer Magazine editor Peter Crookston and former GQ editor Paul Keers took over when I left.

Magazines such as High Life and InterCity were key to the development of the customer magazine industry in the early 1980s, led by contract publishers such as BBC/Redwood and Cedar.

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

These days, inflight magazines for the budget airlines tend to be functional, with tit-bitty city profiles and short lifestyle features for their short-haul flights.

One magazine that set out to break the mould was the illustration-led  Carlos for Virgin Airlines. This thought of itself as more of a fanzine than an inflight magazine. It was loved by other editors and designers and won awards for its launch and design from the BSME for publisher John Brown. However, like earlier creative titles such as Town and Nova, it failed to make commercial sense for the airline, lasting just three years and six issues. It was replaced by Travel Notes in 2006. The Atelier Tally blog has a post of covers and details.

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

 

Ruptures, piles and Edwardian advertising paranoias

February 8, 2015
A long list of of Edwardian ailments from the classified advertising in Photo Bits magazine of 1902

A long list of of Edwardian ailments from the classified advertising in Photo Bits magazine of 1902

Rupture. Piles. Hair destroyed. Sleeplessness. Too stout. Fits. Drunkenness. The list of ailments bedevilling the Edwardians was endless to judge by just this one page of classified advertising from Photo Bits magazine in 1902.

In fact, the very concept of manhood was in doubt, at least that’s what’s suggested by the book about trying to cure the ‘general weakness, premature and acquired diseases’ of men.

Of course, it’s a strategy that underlies advertising to this day – create a problem in people’s minds so you can sell a product to cure it, from dandruff to bleeding gums, dry skin to greasy hair, slow computers to burglary.

Photo Bits magazine adverts for ways to improve your Edwardian moustache

Photo Bits magazine adverts for ways to improve your Edwardian moustache

The adverts I particularly like are the ones for moustaches, with their neat engravings bringing to mind an irritating, opera-singing character from a much more modern advert. These Edwardian adverts for ‘hair forcing’ treatments promised ‘strong military moustaches in a few weeks’ and that they would prevent baldness. So, send for your bottle of Forceline, HairsutVitaline or Pomade Don Cossack today!

Photo Bits was a slightly risqué weekly aimed at men that described itself as: ‘Up to date. Bright. Sketchy. Smart. Witty. Pictorial. Pithy. Original. Spicy.’

According to the British Library page on film magazinesPhoto Bits (Brunswick Publishing, later Phoenix Press) became Photo Bits and Cinema Star (New Picture Press) for a year in 1923, when it switched its name to Cinema Star and Photo Bits. In 1926, it was incorporated with London Life magazine.

Film, TV and radio magazines history

The charming children of Lilian Hocknell

November 20, 2014
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

Lilian Hocknell was the artist drew this cover for the November 1936 cover of Mother. She was renowned for her drawings of babies and children and by this time the country was coming out of the recession so the family is laden with presents and Christmas shopping. The cherubic little girl is clutching a red balloon as well as the teddy. the lettering ” ‘S TOY FAIR” can be seen on the balloon – Hamley’s? Harrod’s?

Notice they’re all wearing gloves; with gauntlets for the older sister.

Hocknell could certainly draw cute tots. An exhibition of her work, ‘Drawings of Children’ was held at the Sporting Gallery, London, in 1926 and she was prolific in producing adverts for Chilprufe kids’ clothing. This issue of Mother ran a Chilprufe advert, below. The V&A holds examples of Hocknell‘s work and Nottingham University notes that The Strand magazine, March 1938, ran an article by John Lothian entitled ‘Here’s fun! The Delightful Childhood Studies of Lilian Hocknell’. She drew a Clacton-On-Sea railway poster for LNER and her drawings have been sold at Bonhams. The clothing might have been proof from chills, but the proofreading left something to be desired, with the C left out of manufacturing.

Lillian Hocknell advertising illustration for Chilprufe children's clothing

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

The address for the Mother was Martlett House, Martlett Court, in London’s Covent Garden. The same address was used later for the Odhams magazines Woman (1938), Picturegoer (1939) and Everywoman (1940).

WATCH OUT for my book on British Magazine Design from the V&A

Magazine sells for £8000 on eBay

October 31, 2014
Marc Jacobs 2014 Playboy special issue

Marc Jacobs 2014 Playboy special issue in perspex box

Magazine collectors have been setting more records on eBay recently. At the top of the tree is the £8000 spent on a copy of Playboy.

It’s one of the 60th anniversary issues of the men’s magazine with Kate Moss on the cover from Jan/Feb 2014 (which went on sale at the start of December). There were at least two variants of the cover: a sideways-on shot of Moss in a Playboy Bunny costume kneeling, which was used in countries such as the UK, Hungary, US and Germany; and one used in Mexico and Italy with the British model kneeling and looking back over her left shoulder.

Inside the issue were 18 pages of photos, which she told one paper she did as a way of celebrating her 40th birthday in 2014.

The cover photographs were taken by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, two UK-based snappers who usually spend their time doing cover shots for the likes of Dazed & ConfusedLove, W and Vogue.

UK issues have been selling for up to £30 on eBay.

The looking-back image was also used for 800 unpriced copies produced in co-operation with US fashion designer Marc Jacobs. One of these went for about £150 in the US recently. However, number 433 of the 800 edition twice failed to attract any bids recently on eBay when priced at £150 and £125.

The copy that fetched £8000 was one of 100 Jacobs copies that were signed by Moss and came in a perspex box. This one is numbered 33/100. Moss appeared at a Jacobs shop in Mount Street, London, at the start of December 2013 as part of the publicity for Playboy‘s 60th celebrations.

Of course, the buyer is after some kind of celebrity rub-off rather than a magazine. But £8000? Has to be a PR stunt. One of these Playboy anniversary issues in a box sold in the US recently for just $3000 (about £1800).

WATCH OUT for my book on British Magazine Design from the V&A

Kate Moss 2014 Playboy cover as it appeared in the UK

Kate Moss 2014 Playboy cover as it appeared in the UK

Magazines for collectors at London book fair

May 27, 2014

I was at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair in Olympia on Saturday and saw magazines for sale on several stands – most prominently Biblioctopus offering a set of the 75 Holmes stories in the Strand for £55,000.

But even £55,000 is peanuts if you want to get your hands on the two Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, that predate the Strand. Scarlet was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. This is one of the rarest magazines in the world and probably the most expensive. (The wife of the publisher Samuel Beeton, was the Mrs Beeton of cookery book fame.) In 2007, a repaired but complete copy of the Beeton annual sold for $156,000 at Sotheby’s in New York.

The Sign appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly, a US magazine, in the February 1890 edition, which was published in both London and Philadelphia. (Lippincott’s also published Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in its July 1890 issue.)

Neither story was particularly successful and it took George Newnes and his groundbreaking Strand to make a household name of Sherlock Holmes and his creator Arthur Conan Doyle with the short stories, starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in its launch issue of 1891.

My visit to the antiquarian book fair came about because of the boom Magforum is seeing in the level of interest in collecting magazines. In the past year, Magforum’s collecting page has established itself as the most popular of the site’s 200 pages, pulling in 1700 visits last month. It is the top Google result to searches such as “collecting magazines”. Two years ago, the page was not even in the top 10. So, I’m seeing big growth in interest in collecting magazines.

Ebay has driven the boom and both buyers and sellers have moved upmarket – as have the prices. Ten years ago, copies of Town could be had for £5; five years ago it was £10; now, the starting price is a tenner and many fetch £100. It’s a similar story with all the classic titles – and fans of the everything from the latest celeb such as Benedict Cumberbatch to the Man from Uncle prepared to pay £133 for a cheap 1966 magazine are continually pushing up the prices of all sorts of titles.

Another book fair item that caught my eye was a nice copy of Brassai’s first book, Paris de Nuit. Sixty of his images were printed in stunning gravure in this 1933 work over 74 pages. The copy was described as: ‘Cover slightly rubbed at corners. Spiral binding intact binding.’ The price was £1650. The Belgian bookseller Deslegte was also offering a ‘very fine copy’ of Robert Doisneau and Arthur Gregor’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 children’s book from 1955 for £525.

London’s Harrington Books had more copies of the Strand on offer, such as a set of the first 44 bound volumes for £2,750. However, it’s complete unbound copies that fetch the best prices, such as an issue carrying Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist for £750.

Hearst closure of Dutch ‘Red’ – and cash cow thinking

May 27, 2014
Heart Magazines Nederlands has decided to stop the women's lifestyle glossy magazine Red from the June 2014 edition

Heart Magazines Nederlands has decided to stop publishing the women’s lifestyle glossy magazine Red from the June 2014 edition

Big consumer groups such as Unilever have occasional culls of their brands – in 1999, it sold off two-thirds of its products! The theory is that you focus your money and management on the strongest brands and get rid of the smaller ones. In the jargon invented as part of the Boston matrix, companies should milk the cash generated by their ‘cash cows’, to spend on their ‘stars’ and ‘question marks’, while closing down the ‘dogs’.

The decision by Heart Magazines Nederlands to close women’s monthly lifestyle magazine Red is an example of that sort of thinking. It also demonstrates the global strategy of the US parent company.

The June 2014 edition will be the last, with the Dutch press reporting that Hearst saw a lack of interest among advertisers for the glossy monthly. So, Red had become a ‘dog’. However, the Dutch subsidiary also publishes Elle, undoubtedly a global ‘star’, and the closure frees up resources for that title. More importantly, Hearst Magazines Netherlands is launching a Dutch edition of Harper’s Bazaar at the end of August. This ‘question mark’ is where the money will go.

Harper’s Bazaar was bought by Hearst in 1913 and is a core star title for the US publisher. In contrast, Red is an English licensed glossy, which was launched 10 years ago by Hachette in the Netherlands. The original Red was invented by Emap and Hachette Filipacchi as a joint venture in 1989. It coined the term ‘middle youth’ for its target market, with a focus on fashion, beauty, jewellery, interiors, food and travel, for women aged over 30.

In 2011, US group Hearst bought Hachette Filipacchi from French media group Lagardere. As a result, it changed the near century-old name of its UK offshoot, the National Magazine Company, to Hearst UK and closed veteran title She. Similarly, the Hachette name was changed to Hearst across the world. Another victim of magazine globalisation was in 2006 when Harper’s & Queen dropped the second half of its name – which had come about when Harper’s took over the 110-year-old Queen in 1970 – to match the Harper’s Bazaar name elsewhere.

At the heart of the thinking is the ability to sell the same name to international advertisers more easily.

The Dutch Red was selling 62,167 copies an issue in 2013, and was read by 174,000 readers (NOM). In the UK, Red‘s sales are a healthy 203,354, well ahead of both Elle (172,079) and Harper’s Bazaar (111,071). So in Hearst’s global strategy it is a cash cow – though that may mean it can be starved of investment and may eventually become a dog as other titles suck out its cash. While UK editions of Red can be bought on Amazon in the US – for an eye-watering $11 – Hearst is unlikely to launch it there.

Hearst editions of Red elsewhere need to keep looking over their shoulders.

Collectors come out for £2,700 Oz on eBay

March 31, 2014

 

Oz magazine first issue

Oz magazine first issue January 1967

Underground magazine Oz is one of the most collectable titles – and proved the point in March when half-a-dozen bidders took their offers up from the £999 starting price to £2,728 in just nine bids. The set included all 48 issues ‘in exceptional condition’ of a magazine that sparked the 1972 Oz trial and introduced Maxim millionaire Felix Dennis to the magazine world.

A copy of the Oz first issue on its own went for £895 – well above the £650 one sold for back in 2007. Several others issues fetched up to £220.

Another title that attracts collectors is trendy cycling title Rouleur, with a set of the first 43 issues selling for £1000 as a buy-it-now.

Part works aren’t usually big sellers but a James Bond collection with model cars fetched £691. Buying it new would have cost £7.99 x 132, more than £1000.

strand_1904_4aprSherlock Holmes in the Strand is a long-standing attraction for collectors and a set of the first seven volumes of the magazine fetched £545. Mind you, unbound copies fetch far more, and this single issue of the April 1904 Strand with a Holmes story fetched £443.

The first 50 issues of the Face were priced at £500 and the seller took an undisclosed offer.

More on: collecting magazines and eBay prices

More: Strand Magazine and its iconic cover

LOOK OUT FOR: British Magazine Design, a new, highly illustrated book from the Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IPC likely to be part of Time Warner sale talks

February 14, 2013

Reports in the US early today suggested Time Warner was in talks to sell some of its magazines to Meredith Corp. The sale would probably include IPC Media, the UK’s second-largest magazine publisher, with titles such as Marie Claire and NME. IPC has sold about 20 titles over the past few years and announced job cuts of 150 staff last month.

Meredith publishes 14 magazines, including Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes & Gardens, as well running TV stations.

Time, the largest magazine publisher in the US, with titles such as Time, Sports Illustrated and People, could fetch $2bn-$3.5bn.

IPC profile