Archive for the ‘Odhams Press’ Category

Sad times for great magazines in uncaring Time Inc hands

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

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

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

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

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

The company wants to cut 300 staff globally.

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

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

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


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

 

 


 

 

 

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Mrs Bull and Farrow’s Bank for Women

April 10, 2017
Front cover of the first issue of Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Front cover of the first issue of Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Horatio Bottomley launched one of the most successful magazines of the 20th century, John Bull. He was less successful in launching this weekly magazine for women, Mrs Bull, in 1910. The launch cover of the magazine – by the artist Lawson Wood who is remembered today for his humorous animals, particularly the Gran’ Pop series – is shown above. It lasted until 1913, when it changed its name to Mary Bull, but that closed in March 1915.

Full-page advert for Farrow's Bank for Women in Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women in Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

As well as being a publisher, Bottomley turned out to be one of the century’s greatest swindlers, through his financial scams, which were promoted in John Bull. So it was interesting to find a full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women at 29 New Bridge Street in London, in the first issue of Mrs Bull. The advert describes the bank as:

The first and only Bank for Women in the United Kingdom which is entirely managed by women

This was the era of the suffragette and the image appears to exploit that connection, showing what could be Emmeline or Sylvia Pankhurst giving a speech at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, which was then a popular place for meetings.

The opening of the bank was noted as a ‘very significant event’ for the women’s movement in  an Australian paper, the Courier Home Circle, dated 18 May 1910:

THE FIRST LADY BANK MANAGER

A very significant event in the annals of the women’s movement was the opening lately of Farrow’s Bank for Women, the first women’s bank in England. Even more important, from a woman’s point of view, is the appointment of a woman to the responsible billet of manager, as well as of a staff composed exclusively of women.

To Bliss May Bateman, well known in literary circles as a writer of poems, novels, and articles on foreign literature in the reviews, has fallen the pioneer honour of directing Great Britain’s first bank for women.

In June 1913, the feminist journal The Awakener carried a full page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women, where ‘ladies find a courteous and obliging staff of their own sex, ready to assist them in any and every detail of Banking and Finance’.

Farrow’s Bank at 1 Cheapside in the City of London, the owner of the women’s bank, described itself as ‘the people’s bank’. However, Farrow’s collapsed just ten years later and has been cited in academic journals as an example of management hubris:

Farrow’s was in a complete state of insolvency when it opened its Women’s Bank, which was merely a desperate attempt to pull in more money. The bank was only kept open through an elaborate system of accounting fraud, which was finally exposed in 1920.

There are some later adverts for Farrow’s Bank for Women online, for example from Weldon’s Ladies Journal in April 1911.

 

On this day in magazines: Today and John Bull in 1960 feb 27

February 28, 2017
Today, the first issue of the cover new John Bull magazine, 27 February 1960

Today, the first issue of the cover new John Bull magazine, 27 February 1960

The year 1960 was a watershed in the history of weekly magazines. The sales of women’s weeklies peaked and the general interest weeklies were already well on the slide, with Picture Post, Illustrated and Everybody’s having already folded. They needed to maintain sales of a million copies a week  to be able to offer national coverage to advertisers, but the world was changing, with magazine readers turning into television viewers.

This first issue of Today is part of that change. The 27 February 1960 issue of the ‘new John Bull, incorporating Everybody’s Weekly‘ marked the end of one of the most famous – and at times notorious – magazine titles in publishing history.

The bizarre cover photograph promoted a colour centre-spread on skiing.

Marketing was vital to keeping up magazines sales, so this issue included:

  • A win a car competition – promoted on the cover as the £1,000 competition.
  • Free insurance offer for registered readers – a technique that went right back to the 1880s with railway insurance from Tit-Bits and, in the First World War, insurance against being killed or injured in a bombing raid in Britain.

Note the plug on the cover for that other vital ingredient of magazines, fiction, with the ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’ by Neville Shute being serialised.

Today was printed by Odhams in Watford, Herts, and published by Odhams Press, Long Acre. The editorial office was at 189 High Holborn. It came out every Wednesday.


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 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 on 22 February 1958 to take sales pressure off Woman – which was selling three million copies an issue – and use printing capacity at the Odhams plant in Watford, Herts.

It was an updated version of the old 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, particularly cookery, kept those readers.

There was intense rivalry 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 print works today – and Sun Engraving. All that is left of the Sun plant – the biggest printing works in Europe in the 1930s – is the clock building that stood at the factory entrance, some road names and a Sun bar in a hotel built on the site.

Woman’s Weekly has proved its staying power, 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). Today, all three are published by Time Inc UK, with the companies having merged to form IPC in the 1960s.


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

 

 


The precursor to Bottomley’s John Bull

June 24, 2016
The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

Horatio Bottomley is rightly regarded as one of the biggest swindlers in British history, using the pages of both the Financial Times, which he helped found, and John Bull magazine to help promote his financial schemes.

Bottomley was at his most bombastic in the pages of John Bull, which was one of the best-selling magazines during the Great War. It’s the magazine with which he is associated as editor, but, in fact, there was a humorous magazine by the same name launched just a few year before Bottomley used the name, as can be seen above.

The first issue of that John Bull was in 1903 – dated April 1st –  and the editor was Arthur William À Beckett, a magazine veteran who had worked on several titles, including Punch, though perhaps not very successfully. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes A.W.’s deputy editorship on Punch from 1880 as presiding over the magazine‘s ‘decline into decrepitude’ because he would change nothing and refused to introduce new blood. Eventually, in 1902, was asked to resign.

A.W. wrote The À Becketts of Punch, about his time on the satirical weekly with his father and brother (Gilbert Abbott and Gilbert Arthur), which was published by Constable in 1903.

The inside masthead for John Bullfeatured famous names such as Louis Wain and Max Beerbohm

The inside masthead for John Bull featured famous names such as Louis Wain, Harry Furniss and Max Beerbohm

The masthead inside the first issue of John Bull by W. Reynolds shows a fabulous roll call of contributors: A.W. carries a bull on his back ahead of a cast made up of A.P. Graves (Irish writer, assistant editor of Punch and inspector of schools), caricaturist Max Beerbohm, cartoonist Harry Furniss, lyricist and writer Adrian Ross, Louis Wain – renowned for his anthropomorphised animals – as Dick Whittington with a devilish-looking cat, Cyril Pearson as a sphinx, Percy Fremlin, adventure writer Sir Gilbert Parker, Sir William Robinson and the Welsh poet Sir Lewis Morris.

A.W. died in 1909, but John Bull appears to have predeceased him, with the British Library holding just one volume, with the final issue dated 25 June 1903.

The magazine was based at 5 Henrietta St in London’s Covent Garden. The street has long associations with publishing. Jane Austen lived at No 9 in 1813-14, the Royal magazine was at No 19 in 1914, along with C. Arthur Pearson’s other titles. In the 20th century, it was the home of Dorling Kindersley for many years.

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

Arsenal legend Eddie Hapgood – and son

December 9, 2015
Eddie Hapgood, the England and Arsenal captain, on the cover of Weekly Illustrated in 1934 with his son, Tony

Eddie Hapgood, the England and Arsenal captain, on the cover of Weekly Illustrated in 1934 with his son, Tony

Far be it for me to plug an Arsenal player, but this Weekly Illustrated cover from 22 August 1934 of Eddie Hapgood, the England and Gooner defender, has a certain charm to it, with his son Tony beside him. Note the armour-plated shinpads for protection against the opposition’s heavy leather boots – and there should have been head guards against the Christmas-pudding weight of the leather balls on wet days, particularly if you headed a badly-laced-up ball.

Hapgood's autobiography cover

Hapgood’s autobiography cover

The same photograph was used for the cover of a 2009 paperback of Hapgood’s autobiography, Football Ambassador. The photo was taken in the run-up to the start of the 1934-35 season – which saw Arsenal win the league title for the third time on the trot. Hapgood was one of the seven Gunners in the England team that won the ‘Battle of Highbury’ international against Italy on 14 November with a 3-2 scoreline. Goal.com is running a countdown of the top 50 English players and Hapgood is at number 36:

One of the shrewdest signings legendary manager Herbert Chapman ever made was that of left-back Eddie Hapgood, who became a key figure in the great Arsenal side of the 1930s that dominated English football like no club had done before. He became known as the ‘ambassador of football’ – later the title of his autobiography – and is still regarded by many as the greatest left-back in Arsenal’s history.

Note Hapgood’s slick haircut – must be a jar of Brylcreem on that (though I see that Brian Glanville identifies another Arsenal hero, Denis Compton, as the ‘Brylcreem boy’ in 1942).

Tony Hapgood grew up to play for Burnley and Watford in the 1950s.

Stefan Lorant would have been editor of Weekly Illustrated for Odhams Press at this time – it was another four years before he launched Picture Post for Hulton.

Photojournalism and photomontage in the 1930s

December 2, 2015
Weekly Illustrated magazine pioneered photojournalism (3 March 1936)

Weekly Illustrated magazine pioneered photojournalism (3 March 1936)

The 1930s saw a revolution in photojournalism in British weekly magazines with German pioneers using Leica 35mm cameras. The leader of the trend was Weekly Illustrated, under the editorship of Stefan  Lorant, who had worked on Münchner Illustrierte Presse before being forced to flee Germany. In London, he confirmed his place as one of the most influential editors of the 20th century.

Lorant relaunched Clarion magazine for Odhams as the large format Weekly Illustrated in 1934, and went on to launch both Lilliput (1937) and Picture Post (1938). He turned to his old colleagues who had also left Nazi Germany, including  Felix Man and Kurt Hutton. They had rejected bulky plate cameras and flash guns in favour of Leicas and available light, a technique that produced much more natural-looking images. The techniques were taken up in the US, by Life two years later.

The cover of Weekly Illustrated above from 3 March 1936 is also notable for its use of photomontage, which was also developed in Germany, particularly through the work of the Dadaist John Heartfield. The magazine cover uses at least three photographs: Edward VIII, the liner and the shipyard workers. Behind the liner is the gigantic Titan crane at the Clydebank shipyard, which can still be seen at the site. Spot red has been used to colour the Queen Mary’s funnels and a tint of this for the faces and the hair on two of the men.

As with so many magazines at the time, Weekly Illustrated was printed using photogravure by Sun printers in Watford. It took over Passing Show in 1939, to become Illustrated and was the main competitor for Lorant’s Picture Post, which it outlived, closing in 1958.

>>Weekly magazines

>>The Secrets of Magazine Cover Design

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 design – in search of the 3D effect

November 7, 2015
Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 23 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 25 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Nowadays, there are many technical strategies that can be used to give a three-dimensional effect to a magazine cover design, including holograms and lenticular stick-ons.

The first magazine hologram I’m aware of was one stuck on a Venture cover from Redwood Publishing in about 1985. Lenticular imagery has been around at least since publicity postcards for the 1968 film of Alistair Maclean’s Ice Station Zebra, and became popular on magazines in about 2001.

But before these, clever graphical tricks were the only viable approach – I’ve never seen a publisher try the red/green printing with plastic glasses on a cover, though it has been used freqently on inside pages since the 1950s from magazines such as Picture Post.

This cover design on movie weekly Picturegoer from 25 April 1953 is a good example. It’s a complex photomontage and is also self-referential with parts of 10 other covers shown as the background. The main photograph is of the hands holding a black and white publicity photograph of Arlene Dahl, described by IMDB as ‘one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen during the postwar period’. The site lists no less than five of her films in 1953.

Note that the hands appear to be in colour. This is because the cover uses the second special colour for the title box as a tint to give a wash over the hands and a paler tint still over the background. The technique was common on gravure-printed weeklies in the 1950s.

All in all, an ambitious piece of work, though to my mind the title sitting over the photograph is a commercial compromise that destroys the overall visual logic – but then no publisher wants the title to be a subsiduary element when the magazine has to sell on a very competitive news-stand each week. However, as the Picturegoer magazine cover design below from 11 April 1953 shows, many issues did carry a much less prominent masthead.

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead for a Kirk Douglas cover

Inside the Arlene Dahl issue of ‘The national film weekly’ from Odhams Press, the 3D theme continues with a review of Bwana Devil, described as Hollywood’s first full-length three-dimensional feature. The critic’s reaction will be familiar to many people who’ve seen any of the recent spate of 3D films (Gravity being the exception for me): ‘Picturegoers are bitterly disappointed in their introduction to Hollywood’s third dimension. They see a real danger in Hollywood’s giving them eye-straining technical tasters in place of sound, satisfying entertainment.’

>Film magazines

>>See my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

John Bull and its famous Bullets prize competitions

October 24, 2015
'Dictionary of Bullets' published by John Bull to mark the 1000th competition in 1935

‘Dictionary of Bullets’ published by John Bull to mark the 1000th competition in 1935

Ian Cowmeadow has started a blog based on his dad’s entries to the Bullets competition that ran for half a century in John Bull magazine. The magazine itself is now remembered for its colour illustrations and covers after the Second World War – a thousand of which can be seen at the Advertising Archives – but the game was one of the magazine’s most popular features in the days before crosswords when John Bull was published by Odhams with the great swindler and MP Horatio Bottomley as editor.

Ian’s ‘Bill the Bullet’ blog explores the notes and memorabilia kept by his dad, who won many prizes and regarded himself as a ‘Bulleteer’. Ian sums up the competitions by quoting Alan Bennett:

The playwright Alan Bennett, whose father was a Bullets obsessive, described the successful attempts as ‘verbal cartoons’. Even so, he still ‘couldn’t see the point or the humour of the entries that won; they seemed like Tommy Handley’s jokes – everybody said they were funny, but they never made you laugh’.

The John Bull Bullets competitions may be largely forgotten now, but I reckon it’s the reason Britain developed cryptic crosswords – the Bullets are really cryptic crossword clues in reverse and must have been fantastic training for composing crosswords.

Another example of the influence of Bullets can be found in Liverpool, where the Mahatma Magic Circle has had cause to be thankful to John Bull for 80 years:

In 1933, Oscar Paulson won the popular Bullets word competition in the John Bull magazine and, with his prize money, he bought and presented to the society the ‘Oscar Paulson Cup’, to be awarded in annual competition for the most entertaining act. We still hold this competition to this day.

John Bull may have closed in 1960, but even so, Long Live John Bull!

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

Greenslade’s mystery of Woman’s Own solved

July 19, 2015
A cover of woman's Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A cover of woman’s Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A friend pointed me in the direction of a Roy Greenslade Guardian blog from 2012 that sets up a mystery as to when Women’s Own was founded by George Newnes – 1932, as both the magazine and Wikipedia state, or 1931, which I state on Magforum. I confess I must be wrong.

The earlier version of Woman's Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

The earlier version of Woman’s Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

I can confirm the existence of the earlier magazine with the same title, however. The British Library has Woman’s Own published by WB Horner’s from 1913, with the modest strapline ‘The best woman’s paper’. I’ve seen copies dated December 1913 and as late as December 1916. The BL has copies into 1917, when it seems it was ‘incorporated with Horner’ s Penny Stories‘. Its offices were at The Fleetway House, Farringdon, in London, the same address later used by Amalgamated Press, the magazine arm of the Harmsworth brothers publishing empire, which took over Horner’s.

The Bear Alley blog – which takes its name from the passage at the side of Fleetway House – has a history of Horner’s.

Woman’s Own is published to this day by Time Inc UK, alongside Woman. For much of their lives, however, the duo were deadly rivals. Woman’s Own was owned by George Newnes and Odhams launched Woman against it on 5 June 1937. They came together in the 1960s with the formation of IPC. These home-based women’s weeklies were massive sellers in their day, peaking in about 1960 with a combined weekly sale of nigh on 6 million copies a week.