Archive for the ‘magazines’ Category

The art in advertising

March 26, 2020
Edwards' Harlene hair dressing advert 1902

Edwards’ Harlene hair dressing advert from 1902

Engraved advertising in Victorian and Edwardian magazines often looks so dramatic with its hard back and white lines, particularly as the big brands employed some of the best illustrators.

This engraving is from a page advert in Alfred Harmsworth’s London, a monthly magazine, from 1902. The unsigned illustration for Edwards’ Harlene hair dressing has the look of a painting or leaded window by the Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne Jones. There is a range of detailed patterning for the clothes and background; everything, except, ironically, for the hair itself.

It was clearly a brand that took advertising very seriously with celebrity recommendations by music hall artiste Lillie Langtry and, it seems, half the royal houses in Europe. But then, Harlene was a miracle potion, promising that it:

Restores the hair,
promotes the growth,
arrests the fall,
strengthens the roots,
removes dandruff,
beautifies the hair.

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Pre-Raphaelite feel to the engraving

The Art of Advertising exhibition was to open at Oxford’s Bodleian library this month, but has been postponed. It tells the story of British advertising from the mid 18th century to the 1930s based on the John Johnson collection of printed ephemera.

Other places to research advertising imagery include the History of Advertising Trust, the Maurice Rickards collection and the Advertising Archives.

>>More about magazines at Magforum.com

Black and white artists in London Opinion

March 5, 2020
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London Opinion cover, dated 11 April 1908

London Opinion was a popular weekly magazine of the Edwardian period that was heavily illustrated by various black and white artists, such as Alfred ‘Your Country Needs You’ Leete and Bert ‘Are a Mo, Kaiser’ Thomas. This cover, dated 11 April 1908, is signed, but heaven knows what the signature says!

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The cover by the unknown illustrator is unusual in that it combines both line illustration and halftone. The halftone reproduction is reserved for the face.

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Halftone reproduction is only used for the face on this London Opinion cover

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At this stage, Leete does not appear to be one of the star illustrators, though he was regularly doing covers by 1914 when he did the Kitchener image that became the famous recruiting poster. He has at least three illustrations in this 1908 issue, judging by his signature with its dropped ‘T’.

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Alfred Leete’s signature can be seen on this cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

When ‘Put-U-Up’ was a trade mark

March 1, 2020

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‘Put-U-Up’ is one of those expressions that’s a household phrase to me for a folding bed, but, as this pre-war colour advert shows, it was an actual brand, made in Clapton, east London.

The full-page advert is from a 1939 copy of the tabloid-sized Illustrated, one of the biggest-selling weekly magazines at the time. It was a rival of Picture Post, and later John Bull, when the latter adopted colour after the war. Its sales at the time will have been about a million copies a week. Illustrated was printed in Watford for its Covent Garden-based publisher, Odhams Press. It closed in 1957, a time when magazines were losing advertising revenue and readers to commercial television.

> General weekly magazines

 

Online conference focuses on national identity in magazines

February 1, 2020

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The Centre for Design History at Brighton University in running a magazine conference on 23 March – 5 April. Future States: Modernity and national identity in popular magazines, 1890-1945 includes academic presenters from 15 countries with free access for registrants to keynote addresses, panels, Q&As, abstracts, notice boards and contacts lists. 

The programme has yet to be published, but the conference theme is being developed in 35 talks on print cultures across the world. Topics include the Soviet satirical magazine Krokodil, Der Rote Stern (The Red Star), the weekly illustrated supplement of the German communist party daily paper, and the populist illustrated periodicals of fascist Italy published by Rizzoli. Panels are set to explore the magazine cultures of North America and Europe, Britain and Australia, Mexico and Peru, Turkey, Iran, and the Soviet Turkic states.

The presentations are being recorded in advance, and will be published over the two weeks of the conference and participants can contribute to discussions. Afterwards, all the material will be maintained as a permanent online record.

In what looks to be an interesting experiment, Future States aims to be a ‘nearly carbon-neutral conference’.

 

 

Stilt shoes for February days in Quiver magazine

January 28, 2020
Crop of the frontispiece from the February 1914 Quiver-magazine. The William Morris poem is illustrated by EA Overnell

Crop of the frontispiece from the February 1914 Quiver magazine. The William Morris poem is illustrated by EA Overnell

This illustration for the title page of a 1914 issue of Quiver magazine hails February days by citing an 1871 poem by William Morris, leader of the Arts and Crafts movement:

February days and now at last, might you have thought that winter’s woe was past!

The illustration by EA Overnell (the wife or a relative of TJ Overnell?) looks straightforward enough, but take a look at the woman’s shoes – she is wearing tiny stilts!

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A good idea no doubt, but did such things ever exist?

The Quiver was founded as a weekly in 1861 and only closed in 1926. It was the brainchild of John Cassell, who was an Evangelicalist and proponent of the Temperance movement. The magazine aimed itself at a middle-class audience and took a very religious line, though this softened over the years, particularly after it switched to a monthly format, and again after Cassell’s death in 1865.

No sooner had I written this post …

… than Dr Patricia Thomas of Massey University in New Zealand sent me an email showing that these mini stilt shoes really did exist! She supplied a link from Google Books to All About Shoes: Footwear through the Ages. The book, published by Bata Limited, is linked to the company’s shoe museum in Toronto, with its displays covering 4,500 years ‘ranging from Chinese bound-foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glamorous platforms’.

There, on page 49, is what looks like one of the shoes on stilts that EA Overnell  snuck on to that Quiver magazine page in 1914! Also, on the opposite page of the double spread entitled ‘High & dry’ about shoes offering protection from elements, is a caption showing that the idea of metal hoop platforms goes back at least to the 1820s in Nova Scotia.

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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


 

Magazine cover tricks: upside-down faces

January 15, 2020
Punch magazine front cover

Punch horror special from 1973: turn your screen upside-down!

Faces that can be turned upside-down to make another face have long been an illustrated  postcard gimmick, such as a Kaiser Bill card from World War I. They’re rarer on magazine covers, but here’s a Punch effort from 1973 for a horror special issue of the satirical weekly.

>>More cover design secrets

Harry Furniss: he Lika Joko

January 10, 2020
Lika Joko first issue cover

Lika Joko first issue cover in 1894. It was ‘conducted’ by Harry Furniss

Harry Furniss was a popular black and white artist of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods who launched his own magazine, Lika Joko in 1894 after he left Punch. The name was a pun on ‘like a joke’ and one of his noms-de-crayon. Like many periodicals of the time, the cover was dominated by advertising.

Note how Furniss portrays himself alongside the magazine’s title with his quill pen piercing the artist’s palette and the nib appearing to be covered in blood – the pen being mightier than the sword. He is dressed in a kimono with sheets of paper held in place at his back by the belt. The patterns on the kimono are formed from parts of his signature. The lettering of the title also has a Japanese feel. Furniss had produced a series of cartoons, ‘Our Japanneries’, under the name Lika Joko in 1888, pretending to be ‘the celebrated Japanese Artist … who is now on a visit to this country’. In the late Victorian period, Japan had a huge influence of art in Britain, resulting in a phenomenon known as Japonisme. Japan and Britain were great allies until World War II.

Illustration from Lika Joko editorial page: How Harry Furniss portrayed Mr Punch and Toby

How Harry Furniss portrayed Mr Punch and Toby in the Lika Joko editorial

On Punch, Furniss was renowned for his quick-fire caricatures of MPs in parliament for the Essence of Parliament pages, which were collated into books, but he turned his pen to all sorts of subjects and illustrated many books. RGG Price in his History of Punch (1957) says: ‘During the years of his Punch work, Harry Furniss dominated the pages. He was all over the place with jokes, illustrations, dramatic criticisms, headings and parliamentary sketches … It is said that he would chat to a man and caricature him on a pad held in his pocket.’

One of his cartoons in the satirical weekly was a spoof on advertising for A&F Pears (now part of Unilever), which used endorsements from celebrities such as the actress and notable beauty, Lillie Langtry, to sell its translucent amber soap. The spoof (26 April 1884) showed a tramp writing a letter saying:

I used your Soap two years ago; since then I have used no other.

Furniss and Punch fell out when the magazine sold the copyright in the drawing to Pears for use in advertising. Price describes Furniss as being ‘dictatorial and slick’ over the issue and the Punch people as ‘patient and disinterested’ in their correspondence. Despite this, the Pears advert was carried on the back cover of the first issue of Lika Joko – see at the bottom of this post – though with a slightly different caption. Pears used the Furniss cartoon advert at least for 16 years – I have a copy of it in a 1910 issue of TP’s Magazine.

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Pears took the Millais painting ‘A Child’s World’, added a bar of soap by the boy’s foot to advertising reproductions, and called it ‘Bubbles’

Pears famously turned another image, the painting ‘A Child’s World’ by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Millais, into advertising – the  image became so famous because it was reproduced as colour lithographs millions of times over several decades. Thomas Barratt, the company’s managing director, bought the painting from Illustrated London News owner Sir William Ingram, who had reproduced it in the magazine as a colour poster for a Christmas issue. Pears had the image copied with a bar of its soap added and today we know it as ‘Bubbles’.

Barratt has been described as ‘the father of modern advertising’ for his innovative strategies. The boy in the painting was the artist’s grandson, Willie James, who later became a Royal Navy admiral. Like Pears’ soap, ‘Bubbles’ is now owned by Unilever and is on loan to the Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight, on the Wirral. Copies of the colour advertising can be seen online from the V&A museum catalogue.

Pear's soap took the back page of Lika Joko with its Harry Furniss advertisement

Pears took the back page of Lika Joko with its Harry Furniss advert

Lika Joko lasted for just 26 issues, from 20 October 1894 to 13 April 1895. Price describes how Furniss was refused a gallery ticket to parliament for Lika Joko – a disaster for a political caricaturist – and that this proved fatal to the paper. Later, Furniss went to the US, where the Internet Movie Database lists him as directing, writing and appearing in three films for Edison Studios, a company controlled by the inventor Thomas Edison: The Mighty Hunters and The Artist’s Joke (1912), and Rival Reflections (1914). Furniss returned to Britain and has been credited with helping to pioneer animated cartoon films in 1914 with War Cartoons and Peace and Pencillings. The BFI credits Furniss on 15 films.

There is a short film online at Brighton University, Winchelsea and its Surroundings. A Day with Harry Furniss and his Sketchbook, which shows Furniss at the cottage of Helen Terry and painting the actress. Other scenes are filmed in Winchelsea and Hastings.

Price reckons Furniss made a lot of money but lost most of it to making films. He died in 1925, in the seaside town of Hastings, where he is buried.

The National Portrait Gallery has a self-portrait of Furniss and more than 450 of his sketches for sale online as prints.

>> Harry Furniss profile in Tit-Bits, alongside Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’ of Vanity Fair) and the theatrical caricaturist Alfred Bryan

>> More on Punch, a weekly satirical magazine that lasted 150 years


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

 

 


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

Twelve of the 41 magazine brands Future in 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 150 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. 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.

Reed started out as a papermaker, which 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 ailing companies in these sectors, so by 1980 it 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 a building contractor that 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, Chateau 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.

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 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, 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

Future is a minnow compared with these two, just 40 years old with a market capitalisation of £1.4bn and 1,200 employees. It 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.

However, it now has a similar level of turnover per employee as Reed. Does Future 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?

 

‘New Women in a New World’

January 1, 2020
Home Notes magazine cover in 1910 had high hoped for 'New Women in a New World'

Home Notes in 1910 had high hopes for ‘New Women in a New World’

Let’s just keep the New Year celebrations going. Here’s how the women’s weekly Home Notes saw things in 1910 – ‘New Women in a New World’.

The first decade of the 20th century witnessed the growth of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst had founded the Women’s Social and Political Union. As feminist frustrations grew during the decade, suffragettes turned to smashing windows in Downing Street, mass demonstrations, and in 1909 prison hunger strikes. There were high hopes in 1910 that the Conciliation bill would give the vote to a million property-owning women, but it did not become law. In November, suffragettes marched on parliament, where they were brutally treated by police on ‘Black Friday’.

A sparkling New Year magazine cover

December 31, 2019

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So, I’m signing out for 2019. I leave you with this 1933 London Opinion cover by Van Jones. Happy New Year!