Archive for the ‘Mike Soutar’ Category

Magazine titles: what’s in a name?

February 20, 2018
Title from the first issue of men's monthly Loaded-in 1994: for men who should know better

Title from the first issue of men’s monthly Loaded in 1994: for men who should know better

My mention of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop included his editorial philosophy on the satirical magazine. He sees his job as to:

Make jokes about what people know and then tell them things they don’t know.

Simplifying an editorial strategy to a few words is a great skill. Today, companies have their ‘mission statements’ but magazines have been coining these for centuries. What is the magazine about? What is it about a magazine that is different from its rivals?

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

For James Brown’s Loaded, it was ‘For men who should know better’; for the science fiction weekly Scoops in 1934, ‘Stories of the wonder-world of tomorrow’; FHM‘s mantra coined by Mike Soutar was ‘Funny, sexy useful’.

George Newnes came up with the not-so-pithy title Tit-Bits from all the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals and Contributors in the World for his pioneering weekly magazine in 1881, which was soon shortened to Tit-Bits.

Sometimes, the title goes a long way to saying it all: Answers to Correspondents, Men Only, Motor, Woman, Razzle. But even in these cases, differentiation is needed from rivals.

Alfred Harmsworth's Home Chat from 1895

Harmsworth’s Home Chat from 1895

Think of the woman’s weekly Home Chat. The name dates back to an Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) launch in 1895.  Would House Chat have been as good? Or Home Talk? Or Fireside Chat?

Probably not, and certainly Home Chat lasted until 1959, when it became a victim of new technology in the form of television. The word ‘chat’ was resurrected for the weekly Chat by ITV/IPC in 1985, though by that time the word ‘home’ was a no-no for a woman’s magazine.

A rival to Home Chat was Home Notes (1895-1958) from C. Arthur Pearson. This carried a line of poetry on its cover: ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,’ by the US poet William Ross Wallace. This summed up the influence of the mother, but today it has sinister connotations.

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London -1900-first-issue-magazine-cover

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London in 1900

Many Victorian publishers took their titles from fashionable places in the world’s greatest city. Examples include Cornhill, Pall Mall, The Strand, Charing Cross.

In doing so, they spread the fame of these thoroughfares and places even farther around the world, in a way that song lyrics would do in the 20th century (Ferry Across the Mersey, Wichita Lineman, Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa) and TV does today (Jersey Shore, The Only Way is Essex).

Many magazine titles have changed the meaning of words, or at least influenced our perception of them, such Punch, Eagle and Delayed Gratification.

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


Nigella and Jolie take to magazine covers

December 8, 2011

Angelina Jolie pours salted caramel over her head for Stylist

Angelina Jolie on Newsweek cover

Nigella Lawson resists the caramel option for the cover of Newsweek

It’s a good job guest editor Nigella Lawson decided to pour salted caramel over her head for Stylist‘s cover photograph by Matthew Shave, while Angelina Jolie resisted the temptation in Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello’s shot. Otherwise, I’d be confusing my Stylist with my Newsweek! The US news magazine carries an eight-page feature on the film actress – and Louis Vuitton has her in a full-page ad on page 2.

Shortlist hits 200 with Steadman / Depp cover

November 3, 2011
Ralph Steadman cover for Johnny Depp interview talking about Hunter S. Thompson in Shortlist's 200th issue

Ralph Steadman cover for Johnny Depp interview talking about Hunter S. Thompson in Shortlist’s 200th issue

Free city men’s weekly Shortlist is celebrating its 200th issue with a Johnny Depp article promoting a film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. On the cover is an exclusive (to all 523,665 copies) Ralph Steadman cover. Steadman was the Gonzo artist who illustrated several of Thompson’s articles and books, such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The best in magazines of the 20th century

January 8, 2011

Loaded first issueLOndon Opinion 1927Tatler in 1982 under Tina BrownLilliput magazine April 1946London Life Ian Drury coverAbout Town  magazine front coverThe Face first issue may 1980

Surveys of the best magazines are done pretty regularly, but they are usually limited in scope and time. But what happens when you open things up to ask who and what are the great names and titles of the 20th century?

Names pop into the frame that you will never have heard of.

How many hands would go up for Stefan Lorant? Even two of the titles he founded – Weekly Illustrated and Lilliput – are now relatively unknown, despite being bestsellers in their day. You will have heard of Picture Post though, which he founded and ran for two years before going to the US where he disappeared without trace as far as magazines are concerned in 1940.

Mark Boxer will be more familiar. The PPA has an award named after him. He learned the design trade on Lilliput, before transforming Queen into a sixties swinger, launched The Sunday Times Colour Supplement and London Life, before dying young in harness as editor-in-chief at Conde Nast. And even his sideline as cartoonist Marc puts him in the frame of fame.

Tom Hopkinson took over from Lorant at Picture Post and, for a while, Lilliput. But did he ever launch a magazine? What did he do after Picture Post?

As magazine supremos, Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe), with Answers and Home Chat; George Newnes with Tit-Bits, The Strand and Wide World; and C. Arthur Pearson with Pearson’s Weekly and London Opinion, all belong to the 19th century.

And what about William Ewert Berry? Who’s he? Lord Camrose. Who? He controlled Amalgamated Press, which published 73 magazines in 1951, with a total circulation of more than 14 million. But then most of that – Answers, Home Chat, Weldon’s Ladies Journal, et al – was bought from Northcliffe’s estate in 1926. And he would probably want to be known for his stewardship of the Daily Telegraph.

But these men left the magazine editorial floor for newspapers and created the world of press barons.

How about cartoonist Alfred Leete? Another new name? But his front cover for London Opinion is probably the most famous ever penned. Or Bruce Bairnsfather, whose Old Bill from Bystander lives with us today as the nickname for a policeman.

Another magazine title – London Life. For 10 years running up to WWII this was the apogee of art deco cover design for a weekly and it seems to have spawned every sexual fetish going, from high heels to maids’ costumes to artificial limbs – in its letters pages. Who was the editor? Haven’t a clue.

From the 1960s and 1970s. Town – Clive Labovitch and Michael Heseltine gave Tom Wolsey his head in designing a great-looking magazine, but it never made any money. Nova, another title that burned bright but leaked money. Harry Fieldhouse launched it and art editor Harri Peccinotti was there throughout in some capacity; David Hillman made his name on it; Dennis Hackett edited both Queen and Nova. Oz tried to blow the system apart and came pretty close – it gave Felix Dennis his first taste of magazines and he went on to launch the world bestselling Maxim. With Honey, Audrey Slaughter showed the way for the teen market and went on to edit Vanity Fair (where she was so outraged over the launch of Cosmopolitan that she went off and launched Over 21) and later Working Woman.

Ruari McLean – he designed the Eagle – and wrote Magazine Design, the world’s first book on the topic according to OUP, in 1969. John Parsons was art director of Vogue from 1948 to 1964, and had a stint at Queen.

And talking of Town, what about the magazine it was created from, Man About Town. John Taylor launched it as an offshoot of the trade journal Tailor & Cutter. He spent 24 years in charge of T&C and made it “the most quoted trade paper in the world”, according to The Times. Now, most great editors will receive such lauding at some stage in their careers, but how many have a portfolio of such quotes from the Daily Mail, the Guardian US weekly Time and The New Yorker!

More recent great names: James Brown certainly set the agenda when he moved from NME to launch Loaded, but he didn’t work out at GQ, and Jack and Hotdog never flew. Mike Soutar took FHM by the scruff of the neck – with a ‘funny, sexy, useful’ mantra – to murder Loaded in the sales stakes, did similar things with men’s magazines in the US, and came back to the UK to launch Shortlist. All that and a former beauty editor on women’s magazine Secrets to boot!

Dylan Jones has proved his credentials at The Face, i-D, Arena and GQ.

But what about the face itself; Vogue (1916 launch in UK); Woman (1937); Tatler (1903); Cosmo (1973); Dazed & Confused; Grazia (one of my favourites for its all-encompassing excellence from paper to design to the editors’ A-team); I’m going to have to stop here! It’s like the song lyric – And those I miss you’ll surely pardon. Your thoughts?

What happens to magazines?

March 2, 2009

That is the title of a meeting on Tuesday, March 3 in London being hosted by NMK. a digital information hub. It sums up the focus as:

If newspapers are having a hard time, then magazines – more expensive to fill, print and distribute – must be really suffering. The need for innovation, new income streams and a focus on delivering value is urgent.

The session (£25; 6.30pm – 8pm) is based around a panel of:

History of digital magazines at

GQ heads for India

April 7, 2008

Men’s monthly GQ is to launch in India – following its Conde Nast stablemate Vogue. Sanjiv Bhattacharya, a British journalist who was features editor of GQ in the UK, will be editor with most of the material generated locally.

Dylan Jones, the editor of British GQ, is a consultant. Jones uses the Observer story to take a swipe at his competition – weekly freebie ShortList as well at National Magazines’ Esquire: He claims Esquire‘s relaunch under Jeremy Langmead has been ‘a total failure’, because ‘they are selling 10 per cent less at news-stands. They’ll be giving it away at tube stations next.’

Men’s magazines profiled

Soutar defends Shortlist

February 14, 2008

Mike Soutar, publisher of weekly freebie Shortlist denies a claim from Alan Brydon, head of press communication at MPG, a media buyer, that ‘the anecdotal evidence is unfortunately that they distribute [the magazine] to anybody and everybody who will take one.’

Soutar claims 82% of readers are in the ABC1 socioeconomic groups, but admits distributors have to judge age and wealth by appearance alone: ‘If somebody who’s female or doesn’t seem to fit the demographic wants it, you can’t snatch it back off them.’

The title is expected to deliver a circulation figure of more than 460,000, almost double that of Bauer/Emap monthly FHM – of which Soutar was once editor-in-chief – in today’s ABC figures.
FT report
Shortlist profile

Shortlist gets closer

September 19, 2007

Shortlist dummy shortlist dummy coverShortlist, the free men’s weekly with former FHM editor Mike Soutar as chief exec, which is to launch on September 20, has released two more dummy covers. And Media Week reports the magazine has announced its sales people. The title will also be available as a digital magazine using the same Ceros technology as Monkey.

Dazed with pornography

September 6, 2007

I’m researching a lecture on digital magazines that I will be giving at Glion University in Switzerland in October. As a result, I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the area – and looking at a lot of magazines on my PC. The result is that I want a bigger screen!

Magazines such as Dazed & Confused are luscious in print but look even more so on a PC. They draw the eye in – real pornography (even without the naked bodies). Plus, you can blow the images up so they more than fill the screen. Take a look at the free sample of Dazed and the other titles available on the Exact Editions website if you haven’t done so already – there are 45 to choose from.

And the range of titles available from Exact Editions is impressive – from the Catholic Herald to AnOther Magazine to Press Gazette and The Spectator. As well seeing the actual page, Adam Hodgkin tells me you can subscribe to several titles and do searches across the lot!

And then there’s the Ceros platform. It’s best known for Dennis’s digital-only eMag Monkey but also does medical journal The Lancet (what biggest contrast could there be?) and is working on the soon-to-hit-the-streets free lad’s mag Shortlist (don’t you just love the fact that Beano publisher DC Thomson has put money behing it!).

The big question is, though, is there any money in it? Nat Mags recently closed its digital-only teen test bed Jellyfish. NatMags boss Duncan Edwards told the Guardian Jellyfish had failed to demonstrate a sustainable business model. But there were two big problems with this one any way. First, the bottom has dropped out of the teen market (and the fact that CosmoGirl! closed showed NatMags didn’t know what to do about it). Second, the launch was messed up because the email-only mag was blocked as spam by the likes of Hotmail over problems with the mailing list.

There are two business models being tried – free, advertising-based (eg Monkey) and subscriptions titles (eg Dazed is £20 a year).

No-one is giving any numbers away (apart from Dennis coming in with an ABCe figure of 209,612 copies a week). But Ceros MD Dominic Duffy makes a good point – ‘After all, in what other online medium is a reader happy for half their screen to be occupied by an advert?’.

For many titles, from Dazed to Private Eye, the ads are part of the joy of the magazine and I can see the new medium encouraging better advertising to earn its place on the screen.

The medium certainly looks to have a better future than the CD-Rom magazines of the late 1990s. And while I’m on that topic, does anyone have any screen shots from Dennis’s Blender or IPC’s Unzip I could use in my talk?

Underwear? Where?

August 23, 2007

Shortlist dummy coverFree men’s weekly ShortList will have ‘a notice­able absence of knickers and ­nipples [to] distinguish it from the troubled lads’ mag market’, according to Media Week. The story is illustrated by a dummy cover with Kate Moss coming down the stairs – in what looks like her underwear.

The title lanches on Septmber 20. Media Week TV also has a video interview with Soutar.