Archive for the ‘IPC’ Category

Reed, Pearson and Future: lessons in media strategy

January 8, 2020
12 magazine logos: Some of the magazine brands Future in buying from TI Media

Fifteen of the 41 magazine brands Future is buying from TI Media

In my days as a media academic, I developed a case study comparing the corporate strategies of Reed International and Pearson. Their progress has been brought back to mind as I ponder what Future is planning for the 41 media brands it is buying from TI Media. These are the remnants of what used to be IPC – Britain’s ‘Ministry of Magazines’ as it was called for its massive size and bureaucracy – and one of the biggest divisions of Reed back in 1980.

At a basic level, it’s a nice little project to map TI’s list of iconic brands, against Future’s justification for the £140m purchase. What divisions would you put the purchased magazines into? And why? Notice that Future lists Country Life in both the Lifestyle and Home Interest ‘verticals’; so where should that venerable title – founded in 1897 – belong? I argued two years ago that it was one of brands being neglected under TI:

[Moving Country Life out of London into a business park] suggests a lack of investment by its owners. However, even if this penny-pinching strategy leads to a decline in Country Life‘s fortunes, its history and contacts should enable it to attract a better owner – and its history can never be taken away. If I were the editor, I’d be trying to do a management buy-out.

And what will Future do with all the yachting and boating titles – sport or lifestyle? Do the hunting and shooting titles fit Future’s skills and company ethos? Where does CelebsNow belong? That’s the digital stump of Now, all that’s left since the magazine, which had a reputation for upsetting celebrities, closed in March last year. Is it worth pushing further into the celebrity sector?

Future’s managers will no doubt be running the Boston matrix over their purchases, deciding which ones are a good fit, which stars to fund for their growth potential, and which dogs to close or sell on to companies where they are a better fit. The UK periodical publishing industry is nothing if not dynamic.

200 years of Reed and Pearson history

More at the business degree end of things, Reed and Pearson are fascinating companies and between them encompass the fortunes of a huge part of British magazine and book publishing for much of the past 175 years. They are among only 28 survivors of the original companies in the FTSE 100 when the index was created in 1984; Future did not yet exist. Yet Reed and Pearson both have their roots outside publishing.

Reed started out as a papermaker in 1895, growing quickly alongside the boom in magazines and newspaper publishing that created a massive demand for newsprint made from wood pulp. This was a time when Fleet Street was the centre of the global media world and Reed’s business brought it into contact with printers, publishers and the building trade. Being a well run and profitable company, it had the cash to buy up companies in these sectors, so by 1980 Reed Group controlled IPC Magazines, Mirror Group newspapers, Odhams printers, Crown wallpapers and paints, and Polycell, among others.

Financial Times eggcup photo: Pearson owned the FT from 1957 to 2015

Pearson owned the FT from 1957 to 2015

Pearson was founded in 1844 as a building contractor and evolved into an international group working for governments across the world. If you’ve ever been to Malta, some of those Valetta harbours and fortifications are of its making, as are chunks of infrastructure in New York, London, Cairo and Mexico. It was also big in oil services. In the 1950s, Pearson became a conglomerate running a portfolio of companies in five sectors: financial services, publishing, oil, manufacturing, and investment trusts. The assets included Lazard bank, the Financial Times, the Economist, Penguin, Longman, Westminster Press, Yorkshire TV, Château Latour, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Madame Tussaud’s. The only common factor was that each one was regarded as being the best in its field.

Future was founded in 1985 by Chris Anderson (now better known for heading up the TED talks). Future’s first title was Amstrad Action, a games magazine for owners of Alan ‘Your Fired’ Sugar’s Amstrad computers. It was produced cheaply using computer technology outside London and the company then expanded into hobbies such as cross-stitch as a self-professed ‘anorak publisher’. Pearson actually owned Future for four year from 1984 as it pursued growth in multimedia.

Reed and Pearson were both massive and successful companies, with market capitalisations of £2.4bn and £1.7bn respectively in 1988. However, conglomerates were out of fashion and found it hard to justify their strategies to the financial markets. They were regarded as takeover targets that were more valuable by being split up; and Pearson was described as a ‘collection of rich man’s baubles’. They decided to change their strategies and concentrate on media – both were founder investors in British Satellite Broadcasting in 1989. However, they met with very different results.

All change in 1990s media

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

Reed sold its building divisions, newspapers and print plants; out went book publishing and IPC, publisher of iconic magazines such as Country Life, NME, Woman’s Own and Loaded. By 1990, it had changed analysts’ views – they regarded its share price of 443p as undervaluing the company compared with other international publishing businesses. It then merged with Elsevier, a Dutch professional publishing group, and concentrated on information and data that could be sold internationally over digital networks at high prices.  It moved up the ‘value pyramid’ in marketing jargon, away from high volume, low value fiction paperbacks and weekly magazines into expensive, global professional information and data. The nearest it kept to a consumer magazine was Reed Business Media and New Scientist – and that went in 2017. The strategy was a great success and Relx, as the company is now known, has a market capitalisation of £37bn and employs 30,000 people. Its share price is 1,905p and it is ranked 15 in the FTSE 100.

Penguin logo: Penguin was controlled by Pearson from 1970 to 2013

Penguin was controlled by Pearson from 1970 to 2013

Pearson sold Penguin and its other consumer imprints to concentrate on academic and educational publishing, student testing, and the FT and Economist. The strategy worked and by 1990 its shares were at 777p. The share price shot through the roof in the ‘dotcom boom‘ of 2000 – peaking at about £24 – because the company was seen as a ‘digital play’ for investors. But that bubble popped. The company’s valuation recovered to about £14 under former Economist publisher Marjorie Scardino as she pursued a ‘learning company’ strategy, but has since bombed under her successor John Fallon. He sold the FT and Economist to focus even more on education and testing, but exposed the company to falling sales as students and schools in the US cut back on buying books, its digital distribution did not take off and the share price dropped like a stone. Today, Pearson has a market capitalisation of £5bn and employs 24,000 people. Its share price is 634p, and it has dropped to 96th in the FTSE 100.

So, in 1980 Reed had a market capitalisation half as big again as Pearson’s; 30 years later it is seven times as big. Two conglomerates tried to focus on digital media, Reed executed the strategy far better.

So, what about Future?

Amstrad Action magazine first issue cover: Future's first title magazine in 1985

Amstrad Action was Future’s first magazine in 1985

Bath-based Future is a minnow compared with Reed and Pearson, just 35 years old with a market capitalisation of £1.4bn and 1,200 employees. It is ranked at about 240 on the FTSE. Future went through the dotcom bubble – publishing Business 2.0, which mapped the hopes for the ‘new economy’ – and nearly became a cropper through over-expansion and reliance on the US economy.

Now, Future plc has a similar level of turnover per employee as the enviable Reed. However, does it really have the skills and resources to exploit the historic shift being forced on periodical publishing by digital media? Investors think so. Future’s share price tripled in 2019 because they reckon it can buy up moribund print magazines and turn them into digital goldmines. That’s what Future says it will do with the 35 magazines and six websites it has bought from TI Media. What do you think?

 

See how far attitudes on race have changed

December 9, 2019
Times-Magazine-cover-2019_12-december-7-Sathnam-Sanghera

Times writer Sathnam Sanghera took the family on a Christmas treat to a manor house

How far has Britain come in its attitudes to race? That was the question sparked in my mind by this Times Magazine cover on Saturday illustrating an article by Sathnam Sanghera. Compare it with this 1968 cover:

Nova-magazine-cover- on racism-and-immigration-1968.jpeg

Nova magazine from August 1968, soon after Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech

The Nova issue from August 1968 set out to challenge racist attitudes. This was just five months after Enoch Powell gave his notorious Rivers of Blood speech to a Conservative party meeting in Birmingham. That year had seen the passing of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. The new law meant migrants had to have a job before they arrived, to possess special skills or meet specific needs in the labour market. The tightening up of the law had come after campaigning by the likes of Powell since the arrival in 1965 of refugees from Uganda fleeing the murderous regime of Idi Amin.

For the first time, immigration laws required migrants to  be connected by birth or ancestry to a UK national, so keeping out people from the Commonwealth who had fought Britain’s wars for 200 years. This was just 20 after after the end of World War Two, when two and a half million men from India alone fought. Of them, 100,000 were killed or injured. Thirty-one were awarded the Victoria Cross.

You won’t see a cover like that 1968 issue of IPC’s Nova on any monthly woman’s magazine today. But then, Nova was groundbreaking in its editorial strategy of mixing controversy with fashion – whether it be abortion, racism, gay rights or the Pill – and the ability of its team to pull off such ideas. It even had the nerve to dress the Queen in Paris fashions!

The book Nova 1965 – 1975 celebrating the ‘thinking woman’s magazine’ and compiled by David Hillman and Harri Peccinotti has recently been reissued. At £26, that’s probably half what you’ll pay for a copy of the original on eBay. 

NME magazine bites the dust

March 12, 2018
Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

NME is to close. The 66-year-old old music magazine will no longer appear as a free weekly but will remain as an online brand. The owners, Time Inc UK, describe the decision as an ‘initiative’ that will ‘expand its digital-first strategy’.

NME was one of the first two mainstream consumer magazines at IPC to launch a website, the other being Uploaded.com for Loaded, in 1995.

New Musical Express was launched in 1952 and was selling 300,000 copies a week from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. It saw off its ‘inkie’ rivals as the tabloid music papers – Melody Maker (the grande dame of the sector, lasting from 1926 to 2000), Record Mirror, Disc and Sounds – lost out to the colour A4 magazines such as No 1, Smash Hits and The Face.

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with bands and musicians holding past copies on the cover. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with eight different covers of the September 26 issue showing bands and musicians holding past copies. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

The title was abbreviated to NME for the issue of 2 December 1978. A few weeks before, Barney Bubbles had redesigned New Musical Express with a colour punk cover, but the publishers (then IPC) had feared too much change, and not wanted to used the NME moniker on that issue (7 October 1978)

It followed the trend to become a full-colour magazine, though it has outlived the A4 magazines that led that trend.

Time Inc is itself in the throes of change, having been bought up by a private equity group, a fate that IPC, then Britain’s biggest publisher, suffered before it was brought up by Time Inc to become the UK arm of the US company.

History of music magazines at Magforum.com


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


 

Britain’s princes – cross-dressing in Marie Claire magazine

October 26, 2017
The royal twee: Prince Charles as urban ethnic nomad by Joe Casely-Hayford. In the bottom right the heir to the throne is out to lunch in Franco Moschino

The royal twee: Prince Charles as urban ethnic nomad by Joe Casely-Hayford. In the bottom right the heir to the throne is out to lunch in Franco Moschino

September 1988 saw the arrival of a new magazine, IPC’s interpretation of a French title that dated back to the 1930s, Marie Claire (I know Wikipedia says it came to the UK 1941, but that just shows how unreliable it is!) It was a breath of fresh air under the editorship of Glenda Bailey. She was seen as an unlikely choice, but talked her way into the job and made a great fist of it, bringing in investigative pieces alongside the fashion. Bailey has since joined the long list of British editors to cross the Atlantic, heading up Harper’s Bazaar since 2001.

 

Hallo tailor: Prince Andrew as ship's matey in Byblos. Right, Charles at home in Moschino

Hallo tailor: Prince Andrew as ship’s matey in Byblos. Right, Charles at home in Moschino

It’s worth getting out these old copies of Marie Claire for articles such as ‘Royal makeover: The princes’ new clothes’. It wasn’t an original idea, Nova ran a piece in 1968 that had French fashion designer André Courrèges giving the Queen a makeover (it caused a storm at the time!). Marie Claire went a step further in tackling Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward – and … well just look at the cross-dressing pictures!

Boys will be boys. Prince Andrew in English Eccentrics. Edward in Rifat Ozbek and John Flett

Boys will be boys. Prince Andrew in English Eccentrics. Left, Edward in Rifat Ozbek and John Flett

Here’s what Marie Claire said at the time:

If the Royal family has become nothing more than a collection of clothes-horses, we know who to blame, don’t we? The Princess of Wales (5ft 10in, pencil slim) transformed herself from little-girl-lost into Miss United Kingdom as if she’d been anticipating the event since birth. The Duchess of York (5ft 8in, rolling gait) exacerbated the situation by contrast: she caught the public imagination as the All England land girl. Even the Princess Royal (5ft 7in, very ordinary) has suddenly acquired an incongruous interest in fashion.

The Princes, however, have been cruelly denied the opportunity to follow in the wake of their womenfolk. Protocol decrees that these unfortunate patricians should appear publicly in sub-Next and privately in the limited shades of country compost. Sympathetic to their predicament, Marie Claire asked designers Joe Casely-Hayford, Franco Moschino, Rifat Ozbek, John Flett, English Eccentrics and Byblos to give Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward the same equality of opportunity as their female counterparts.

Knowing that this would be a difficult creative task, we did not ask them to design for the actual Royal physique, nor did we specify whether the ensembles were for state occasions or intimate At Homes, but our philanthropy may result in a new age of elegance for the Royal male. Windsor change?


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

 

 


 

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

 

 


 

 

 

New Scientist sale is good news for Relx investors

April 15, 2017
New Scientist magazine front cover

New Scientist magazine has been sold for an undisclosed sum

The sale of New Scientist magazine is seen as good news for Relx, an Anglo-Dutch company that has moved from print to online delivery of information in the past 20 years.

The FTSE 100 company was once known as Reed International, and owned paper making and building materials companies such as Crown Paint and Polycell. It then bought IPC Magazines and book publishers and switched its focus to publishing. In 1993, it merged with Elsevier, a Dutch group, to concentrate on academic and professional publishing.

Reed Elsevier sold off both the consumer books and IPC’s consumer magazines, which were seen as low-margin businesses, to concentrate on digital delivery of data and information to academia and business. It held on to trade and business magazine titles, such as Variety and New Scientist, but has spent the past 10 years selling these to invest in digital assets such as Lexis Nexis.

Now, New Scientist has been sold to Kingston Acquisitions, an investment firm led by Sir Bernard Gray. He was part of the £230m buyout of the Times Educational Supplement from News Corp in 2005 by private equity group Exponent. Hopefully, a third of the company’s staff won’t take up an offer of voluntary redundancy, as happened after that deal.

The recent history of Relx and Pearson makes a fascinating comparison. Both were conglomerates in the 1980s that decided to concentrate on publishing and media. However, Pearson always seemed a decade behind Reed. That gap has accelerated since Marjorie Scardino left Pearson. New MD John Fallon has seen Pearson’s share price fall by half in the past five years, while Reed’s has more than doubled. The big mystery is how Fallon has kept hold of his job.

 

This day in magazines: Woman’s Realm launch

February 22, 2017
The first issue of Woman's Realm dated 22 February 1958

The first issue of Woman’s Realm dated 22 February 1958

Woman’s Realm was launched as a mass-market women’s weekly magazine on 22 February 1958 to take sales pressure off Woman – which was selling three million copies an issue – and use printing capacity at a plant in Watford, Herts, owned by Odhams, its publishers.

Woman’s Weekly was an updated version of the well-tried formula of fiction plus domestic tips and information. By 1960, the latter dominated. It added a medical page, personal problems, fashion and regular spots for children. The Odhams publicity machine took sales to over a million. Clarity of hints on domestic matters in Woman’s Weekly, particularly cookery, kept those readers.

There had been intense rivalry since the 1930s between Odhams with Woman, George Newnes with Woman’s Own and Amalgamated with Woman’s Weekly (the oldest of the women’s weekly magazine trio, dating back to 1911). There was also a printing rivalry with both Woman and Woman’s Own being printed in Watford, at Odhams – the Art Deco building is still a print works today – and Sun Engraving. All that is left of the Sun plant, the biggest printing works in Europe in the 1930s producing a huge range from Picture Post to Vogue, is the clock building that stood at the factory entrance, some road names and a Sun bar in a hotel built on the site.

In spring 2001, Woman’s Realm magazine folded after 43 years and was merged with sister title Woman’s Weekly. Press reports quoted editor Mary Frances saying it could not get away from its old-fashioned image and an ‘association with knitting patterns’. Most sales for mass-market magazines had been falling since 1960 but Woman’s Realm had seen a sharp drop in 2000, down 15% year-on-year to 152,053. It was selling 500,000 copies a week in 1989.

Woman’s Weekly has proved its staying power over more than a century, having overtaken its more lavishly designed rivals to register an ABC figure of 276,208, with no freebies, against Woman (208,145) and Woman’s Own (185,172).

Contraction in magazine publishing had set in during the 1950s after the launch of commercial television and later Sunday newspaper supplements. Odhams, Newnes and Amalgamated all merged to form IPC – which then controlled the bulk of British magazine sales – in the 1960s. In 2001, the group ended up in the hands of the US media group Time Inc. Turmoil in the US owners has resulted in cost-cutting and turmoil for the UK offshoot since 2018 and a massive drop in value for the company.

Addendum (April, 2019; February 2020)

With magazine sales in gradual decline, IPC was bought and sold several times:

  • 1998: Reed Elsevier sells IPC  for £860 to Cinven, a venture capital group.
  • 2001: Cinven sells IPC for £1.15 billion to AOL Time Warner. The US publishing giant ran down its British arm, closing or selling many magazines – including Woman’s Realm (after a half-hearted attempt to relaunch it as Your Life under editor Mary Frances). In 2015, it also sold IPC’s Blue Fin office building in London for £415m, moving half of the magazines to an industrial estate in Farnborough.
  • 2018: after Time Inc (what was left of AOL Time Warner) was itself bought by Meredith, another US group, the remains of IPC were sold to private equity company Epiris for a paltry £130m. It changed the name to TI Media.
  • September 2018: TI sells its comics division to Oxford-based 2000 AD and games publisher Rebellion Developments.
  • June 2019: TI sells NME and Uncut to BandLab Technologies, a music specialist group established in 2016 and based in Singapore.
  • September 2019: TI closes the print edition of Marie Claire, a title launched in 1988 as the ‘thinking woman’s magazine’ with serious features, fashion and beauty.
  • In October 2019, Epiris announced it was selling TI Media‘s 41 brands to Future for £140 million. The new owner said it would own 220 global media brands (nobody just publishes magazines any more). Listed as part of the ‘compelling strategic and financial rationale’ for the deal was the entry into ‘three new specialist verticals’, one of these being Women’s Interest with Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Woman and Chat. Another reason was that TI Media was historically UK-focused whereas Future had a global operating model.

The official sales figures of the three women’s weeklies at the end of 2018 and 2019 were:

  • Woman’s Weekly: 236,429 (227,505)
  • Woman: 133,103 (124,580)
  • Woman’s Own: 124,187 (113,963)

Information about magazines


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


On this day in magazines: Aeroplane and Eric Fraser in 1960

February 12, 2017
Eric Fraser cover for Aeroplane magazine of a Lightning jet from 11 February 1960

Eric Fraser cover for Aeroplane magazine of a Lightning jet 

Apologies for the small illustration, but I can’t find the actual issue of  The Aeroplane and Astronautics from 12 February 1960.

I wanted to use this cover for two reasons. First, as an example of an advertising cover, and second as an example of Eric Fraser’s artistry, outside the magazine for which he is best known, Radio TimesAeroplane, a ‘weekly magazine for the aviation enthusuiast’, invariably used illustrated covers. I don’t know how they were commissioned but there must have been co-operation between the advertiser and the magazine.

The Eric Fraser cover here is for the English Electric Lightning – Britain’s main fighter jet in the days when the country could afford to build its own rather than buy from the US or go into co-operation with Europe.

The Chris Beetles gallery  has held exhibitions of Fraser’s work. This is how the gallery describes him:

Eric Fraser is one of the most significant British illustrators and designers of the 20th century, who produced work that is at once wide-ranging and highly distinctive. Developing an assured technique and an impressive general knowledge, he could adapt his style to almost any subject matter, from ancient to modern, and any mood, from the whimsical to the tragic. He was also industrious, meticulous and dependable. As a result, he defined the look of Radio Times for over four decades and became a mainstay of JM Dent’s Everyman’s Library while also creating impressive murals and stained glass windows and an astonishing variety of advertising.

Fraser was also chosen to illustrate the May 1953 coronation number of the Radio Times. This was an unusual issue because he drew not only the heraldic illustration on the front, but also the back cover advertisement for Batchelors Foods in a similar style. The event marked the first time the BBC’s listings weekly had used colour since before the war. The Batchelors advert was also used on the back of that week’s Listener. Fraser drew for the Radio Times from 1926 until 1982, the year before his death.

He was a member of the Society of Industrial Artists, which was founded in 1930 at the Ye Olde Cock Tavern in London’s Fleet Street, and has evolved into today’s Chartered Society of Designers, complete with royal patronage.

An Aeroplane magazine cover of a Fairey Battle from 13 April 1935

An Aeroplane magazine cover of a Fairey Battle from 13 April 1935

The Aeroplane and Astronautics was published by Temple Press and in the 1940s claimed to be ‘the most influential aviation journal in the world’. Temple was founded in the Victorian era with titles such as Cycling and Motor. In 1949, it became part of George Newnes and then part of the IPC conglomerate in the 1960s.

Aeroplane has a history of great covers, which like many trade and technical magazines, carried advertising.

Although the cover is the prime place for gaining such revenue, most consumer magazines and newspapers moved away from front page advertising, a trend that accelerated after the Second World War. However, it’s a tactic that is returning, particularly among free titles, but even the biggest newspapers are now giving their covers away as wraparounds, and back covers are now often adverts.

 


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

 

 

 

 


This month in magazines: holographic cover

February 6, 2017
Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Front covers don’t come much rarer than this one from 4 February 1988. A bust of Newton is looking at itself in a hologram that is embossed on the front cover of IPC’s New Scientist.

The hologram discs were originated by Advanced Holographics and Markem Systems. The covers were then printed as usual with a space left for the disc. At Malvern Press, the covers were then stamped with the holographic foil disc using a ‘hologram registration unit’.

There was a lot of interest in the technology at the time. A couple of years earlier, Venture, a magazine run by Redwood Publishing had stuck a hologram on its cover. Later in 1988, National Geographic did a whole cover hologram (December issue) and it had done a smaller hologram cover in March 1984 and November 1985.

Last year, Another magazine did a Karl Lagerfeld hologram for its 150th issue. Like lenticular covers, the concept is expensive and gimmicky.

The Jonathan Ross Collection lists 12 magazine covers with holograms.


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

 

 

 


On this day in magazines: Sunday Times supplement 1962

February 5, 2017
First issue cover of the Sunday Times Colour Section on 4 February 1962

First issue cover of the Sunday Times Colour Section, 4 February 1962

The first Sunday of February 1962 saw the advent of the Sunday Times Colour Section. It could not call itself a magazine then because the law prohibited magazines being published on a Sunday.

However, the colour supplement was a big factor in changing the nature of the magazine industry. The advent of commercial television in the mid-1950s had brought down general weekly magazines such as Picture Post, Everybody’s and Illustrated. And monthlies too, such as Lilliput. From 1962, the Sunday papers became another nail in the coffin of weekly magazines. John Bull had relaunched itself as Today but would last just another two years;  Tit-Bits, Reveille and Weekend would soldier on before eating each other up and closing in the 1980s. It was a story of slowly falling sales for women’s weeklies too, with their circulations having peaked in 1960.

Yet it was not all plain sailing for the first 1960s colour section. Mark Boxer had been tempted across from the upmarket monthly Queen as launch editor. He said he had only seven weeks to produce the first issue and would later say he was ‘amazed by its success’. He wanted to change the name to Sunday Times Colour Magazine but aside from the legal question, he was told that this might be interpreted as a sign of losing confidence. A few weeks after the launch, he said: ‘The supplement is still not being taken seriously. It is like the toy in the cornflake packet.’

The art director was John Donegan, who had worked in advertising and later became a cartoonist for Punch and the Sunday Express. The  cover for the first issue shows 11 photographs taken by David Bailey of Jean Shrimpton wearing a Mary Quant dress. They encircle a colour shot by photojournalist John Bulmer of Burnley’s legendary striker Jimmy McIlroy. The issue also published the Ian Fleming short story ‘The Living Daylights’, but was described ‘a crashing bore’ in the news weekly Topic.

At the start of its second year, the Colour Section began calling itself a Colour Magazine. That word ‘colour’ was the magic ingredient, enabling the Sunday Times to offer a colour national advertising vehicle to big advertisers.It finally became the Sunday Times Magazine in 1964.

The idea of supplements is not new, of course. The Times launched a women’s supplement in 1910, and a colour version a decade later, though bother were short lived. And the Times Literary Supplement and the paper’s Education and Higher Education supplements are still published. But these are exceptions to the rule that supplements cannot make it as magazines. The last one to try – the Mail on Sunday‘s You, was an embarrassing failure when it tried.

Roy Thomson starting the presses at Sun Engraving for the Sunday Times Colour Supplement in January 1962

Roy Thomson starting the presses at Sun Engraving for the first Sunday Times Colour Supplement in January 1962

‘Bore’ it might have been, but it pulled in the advertising revenue for Sunday Times owner Lord Thomson (a tycoon often remembered for saying that television was ‘a licence to print money’). Other papers took notice, with The Observer following suit on 6 September 1964 with a cover portrait of Lord Mountbatten by John Hedgecoe, who established the photography department at the Royal College of Art the next year. It took its inspiration from magazines such as Life and Paris Match as well as the Sunday Times supplement. A Daily Telegraph supplement was launched the same month. Late in the decade, the Mirror had a ago, but this did not last long. Nowadays, however, most of the national papers have several magazine supplements, as do many local and regional papers.

Mini painted by Alan Aldridge for the Sunday Times 1965

Painted Mini by Alan Aldridge for the Sunday Times 1965 Automania special

Under editors such as Godfrey Smith, Hunter Davies, Ron Hall, Philip Clarke and Robin Morgan, the Sunday Times Magazine was a breeding ground for photographers, editors and designers, with people such as Peter Crookston, the future Nova editor; David Hillman, the Nova designer and later Guardian redesigner; and Peter Fluck and Roger Law (Spitting Image puppet makers); and art editor and Soviet archive owner David King all going through its doors.

Michael Rand ran the art side of the supplement between 1963 and 1993. In a commemorative issue (5 February 2012) he said:

I never attempted a style for the magazine. I just wanted it busy but simply laid out, and there had to be tension there: grit and glamour. I realise now my unconscious influence was Picture Post. It had those great covers and was unashamedly a picture magazine. And I used a lot of illustration — David Hockney, Peter Blake and Ian Dury did front covers. There was a feeling that, creatively, you could do anything.

And the supplements could do pretty much anything. The October 1965 front cover above – an Automania special issue – is an example. It is a real Mini painted in his psychedelic style by Alan Aldridge. The car was white-washed and painted with 100 tubes of designer’s gouache, six cans of silver spray from Woolworths and checkered tape. It took five days. And then Denis Rolfe took the photo.

To encourage advertisers to prepare better artwork, the Telegraph group produced the Daily Telegraph Magazine Guide to Gravure Printing, a book written by its technical adviser, Otto M Lilien, in 1968. The expensive, 100-page guide was printed by Eric Bemrose, Aintree, the company that printed the magazine, with acetate pages produced by Harrison & Sons (High Wycombe) and binding by Tinlings of Liverpool.

The process and its technical differences from Letterpress and offset [lithography] are fully set out and illustrated In the following pages. Explanations are given to assist the achievement of the best possible results from the use of gravure through suitable basic design, typography, Artwork, photography and layout

The cost of printing the Mirror Magazine lost IPC millions of pounds in 1970

The cost of printing the Mirror Magazine lost IPC millions of pounds in 1970

Supplements had massive print runs on the country’s biggest gravure presses, and budgets to match because their economics were not the economics of a paid-for magazine.

However, get it wrong on a supplement and the printing costs could kill you – as it did the Mirror Magazine. IPC launched the supplement but the massive 5 million print run was too long for the  copper cylinders on the gravure presses at Odhams Press in Watford. That meant two sets of very expensive cylinders – and the Mirror Magazine closed within a year having lost £7 million.

 

What’s a copy of the Sunday Times Magazine worth?

 


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