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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De Niro can play Sherlock Holmes in Joe Allen’s Exeter Street building

June 11, 2017
Haité's view of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its massive rooftop sign on the right

Haite’s sketch of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its huge rooftop sign on the right

Former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St in 2015

The former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St, without the rooftop sign. Exeter St runs to the right

The glossy monthly Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947

Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947. Another former occupant was Health & Strength in 1910

Joe Allen’s, an American-style bar and restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, is moving from its present site in Exeter Street round the corner into Burleigh Street. I’ve been going there since the 1980s, which I worked for Redwood Publishing in Long Acre, and had one of my favourite meals there – blackened blue fish!

A few years ago when researching my book on magazine design, I learnt that the offices of Tit-Bits and The Strand magazines were on the corner of  Exeter and Burleigh streets in the 1890s, under their founder George Newnes. The southern-most part of Burleigh Street is shown on Haité’s famous Strand cover. The building is still there and later housed Queen magazine. I suspect the Joe Allen premises were the printing works for the magazines.

Joe Allen says its site has been acquired by the actor Robert De Niro,  who plans to open a boutique hotel, The Wellington, in its place. He’s a part owner of the Nobu chain of restaurants and two other hotels. Newspaper reports suggest he is planning to retain the façades of the historic properties on the block that will be knocked through for the development.

If he is looking for a celebrity theme, it could well be Sherlock Holmes, most of whose stories first appeared in The Strand. The site has as much claim to being the spiritual home of the famous detective as any other (221B Baker Street was a fictional address).


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

 

 


 

£1,750 for a copy of Oz magazine

May 13, 2017
This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

Prices for copies of Oz just go up and up. February was the magazine’s 50th anniversary and the buyers came out for several issues. Pick of the bunch was a copy of the first Oz that sold for £1,750, with 23 bids. A first issue of Oz went in 2012 for just over £1,000. The starting price this time was £400 and five bidders fought it out. A nice thing about it was the provenance. As the seller, sarahnegotiator, explained:

Published in 48 issues between 1967 and 1973, Oz Magazine was a revolutionary anti-establishment underground publishing phenomenon that triggered outrage, numerous police raids and the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, here is a unique opportunity to purchase an extremely rare copy of the very first issue of London Oz.
Owned by the current seller since it was bought at King’s Cross Station in 1967, the magazine is complete, and apart from some minor creasing and light wear on the cover corners, is in good condition throughout.

Another first issue of Oz sold for £1,000. The starting price was £500 and the seller gave a very limited description. One potential bidder, quite rightly, wanted to know more:

Q: Would you be so kind as to tell me a bit more about the condition? Are there any pen marks or rips? Has anything been cut out? Are there any creases or dog ears? How would you rate it: Mint, VGC, Good, Fair? I’m a collector so quality is very important.
A: I would say that the condition of the magazine is between Mint and Very Good Condition. There are no dog eared corners or creases to any of the pages, no pen marks, no tears, the staples and the fold-out calendar of Feb ’67 are still attached. There are a couple of very small stains on the front cover and overall the pages are very slightly yellowed with age. Thanks for your interest and please get in touch again if you need more information. Best regards and happy bidding,

I’m always wary of terms such as ‘mint’ – but the fact that the seller fills in the details shows that it clearly is not mint in any sense that a collector would understand (stains on the  cover?!).

Another issue, Oz No.11 from April 1968, The Sticker Issue, fetched £363. The seller here, silvantage925, also sold seven other issues of Oz. The description was very good , with photographs to back it up:

The magazine is complete, with no missing pages. There are some minor rips to pages, towards the back of the magazine, including the back page. Stickers are in good shape though. Please see photos.
Magazine does not display any major signs of discolouration or distress other than what has previously been mentioned.
Please check photographs and keep the condition in mind when bidding. I always try and be as honest and descriptive as I can, any flaws etc will always be photographed and added to description.

Four other issues have sold this year fetching prices of £200-£276 on eBay.

 

What’s gone wrong at Arsenal – by the manager

May 11, 2017
What's gone wrong at Highbury - what every Arsenal fan wants to know

What’s gone wrong at Highbury – what every Arsenal fan now wants to know

 

But this article is by manager Billy Wright and dates from 1966

But this article is by manager Billy Wright and dates from 1966

‘What’s gone wrong at Highbury’ – by the manager. That’s the article that so many Arsenal fans want to read, but Arsène Wenger, today’s manager, is not as forthcoming at Billy Wright was in May 1966.

In this article for weekly listings magazine London Life, reporter Rodney Burbeck ‘took a tape recorder to Highbury, put some blunt questions to Mr Wright and invited him to answer the critics’.

Not that his answers did him much good. Wright, who had been in the hot seat since 1962, lost the job to Bertie Mee the next month. Gooners regard Wright as a great player but the worst manager of modern times, with a win rate of 38%.

Wenger, by contrast, has been in the chair since October 1996 and is regarded as the club’s greatest manager, having won 57% of his 1,120 games in charge, with 19 top four finishes, 3 League cups and 6 FA cups.

See also – Arsenal legend Eddie Hapgood – and son

Rathborne’s Dr Who portrait was worth the wait

May 3, 2017
Ray Rathborne's Radio Times cover of Jon Pertwee as Dr Who

Ray Rathborne’s Radio Times cover of Jon Pertwee as Dr Who

Ian Jack has done a fine obituary for The Guardian of Ray Rathborne, the photographer who took this striking, eye-popping portrait of Jon Pertwee, who had just taken on the eponymous role in Dr Who in 1970.

Jack notes that Rathborne ‘was driven by a search for perfection that occasionally tested the patience of those who worked with him’. I know the feeling, but when you get results like this, it was clearly worth the wait.

 

 

Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

The week in magazines: in and outs at Vogue

April 16, 2017
Arabic language cover of Vogue. Abdulaziz lost her job as editor on Thursday

Arabic language cover of Vogue Saudi Arabia. Princess Abdulaziz lost her job as editor on Thursday

Well, what a week in magazines. It’s difficult to have missed Edward Enninful as the the new editor at the century-old British Vogue, but did you hear what happened at the title in Saudi Arabia? They lost an editor princess, no less. And back in the UK, Relx has sold its iconic title, New Scientist.

The arrival of Edward Enninful at British Vogue is seen as marking a switch to a more digital focus, with Alexander Schulman having wrung as much from print as there is to find. It is also the start of the change of the old guard, with Albert Read – Enninful’s boss in New York – set to take over from Nicholas Coleridge as MD of Condé Nast UK  on August 1st.

But Read does not inherit the whole of Coleridge’s brief. Wolfgang Blau, digital chief of Condé Nast International, will take over as president of the international side. The fallout from the shenanigans in Saudi Arabia will no doubt still be reverberating then.

Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz was sacked on Thursday as editor of Vogue Arabia after just two issues. Abdulaziz – described last year as ‘a beacon of fashion in the region’ was appointed for the launch in July 2016. At the time, she said:

Don’t forget that we understand luxury almost better than anyone else on earth. Middle Eastern women have been serious couture clients since the late 1960s. We’ve been around long before the Russians and the Chinese ever came into the picture

Abdulaziz put Gigi Hadid, a Palestinian-American model, on her second Vogue cover

Abdulaziz put Gigi Hadid on her Vogue cover

However, putting Palestinian-American model Gigi Hadid wearing a veil on the cover for the first issue in March proved controversial. Cries of ‘cultural appropriation’ and accusations of plagiarism have bounced around social media.

Abdulaziz has since been quoted as saying:

I refused to compromise when I felt the publisher’s approach conflicted with the values which underpin our readers and the role of the editor-in-chief in meeting those values in a truly authentic way

Manuel Arnaut, a Condé Nast veteran and editor of Architectural Digest in the Middle East, has been parachuted in to calm things down. He has worked  as a writer and editor at both Vogue and GQ in Portugal.

So, that’s three editions of Vogue with men at the helm.

Madonna on Vogue covers

Vogue profile


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.

 

The printing revolution in India

April 13, 2017

early printing in India explored

Anindita Ghosh explores the ‘Renaissance’ that came about through the medium of print in India

BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting the first in a series celebrating India’s independence in 1947 with a programme about the effect of the first wooden printing press being brought to Kalkota by the British in 1799.

In Printing a Nation, Anindita Ghosh from the University of Manchester argues that print was far more important than the railways in shaping the Indian nation. The setting up of the first presses by missionaries led to a search for a putative ‘Indian’ identity – the Bengal Renaissance – that was shaped through the exchange of ideas via printed texts.

This was particularly because of the sea of Indian-run presses, printing in local languages, that furthered ‘a cacophonous print revolution’. By the end of the nineteenth century, ‘more titles were produced in India than in France during the Age of Enlightenment’.

 

Enninful ends the male ‘white-out’ at Vogue

April 11, 2017

Edward Enninful has been fashion and creative director at W magazine since 2011

Edward Enninful has been fashion and creative director at W magazine since 2011

Much of the coverage about the arrival of Edward Enninful as editor of Vogue talks about ‘surprise’ in the fashion industry. He may be the first male editor-in-chief of the British edition of the title, but Condé Nast, who founded the US original in 1892 based on a French magazine, was hardly a woman. Somehow, the company always seem to generate surprise at these announcements – just look back at Alexander Shulman’s appointment. But Condé Nast tends to promote from within and, as the creative director of W, Enninful has been under the nose of Jonathan Newhouse, the big chief, in New York for six years.

Of course, he is a rare black editor at a big Western magazine. How many others are there? I remember commenting on the loss of Helen Bazuaye as a black editor back in 2004 when 19 closed. And former Cosmopolitan editor Linda Kelsey has blamed the conservative nature of the industry for the lack of black models on magazine covers.

Shulman has had a hard time at Vogue from Naomi Campbell, who was first black model to appear on the covers of Vogue in the UK. Campbell attacked Vogue in 2008 for not putting her on the cover often enough. Shulman dismissed the comments as ‘a PR thing’, saying ‘Campbell was just trying to get publicity for the event she was doing’. Campbell has also claimed that an Australian magazine editor lost the job after putting Campbell on the cover.

Enninful, who is a 45-year-old Ghanaian-British stylist, will take over as Vogue’s 11th editor on August 1, following Shulman after her quarter-century stint. She will be a hard act to follow, with circulation doubling under her tenure to 220,000 copies a month. She was also lauded in the press for last year’s centenary celebrations campaign for the title, with a National Portrait Gallery exhibition, a BBC TV documentary and a Duchess of Cambridge cover.

He joins Emanuele Farneti, editor of Italian Vogue, as a man running an edition of the US-owned fashion monthly. Farneti, like Shulman, was editor of men’s monthly GQ, before moving across to the bigger woman’s monthly.

Enninful was touted as the world’s youngest fashion director when, aged 18, he took the post at Terry Jones’s i-D. and has spent the past six years as creative director at W in New York. His campaigning side has come out with his talk of ending the ‘white-out’ he sees on catwalks and in magazines and he styled Italian Vogue’s Black Issue back in 2008.

Enninful has more digital savvy than Shulman, judging by the success of ‘I Am an Immigrant’ video he released on W’s website after Donald Trump’s travel ban. With print sales under the cosh, ad revenues and digital presence will provide the benchmarks on which he will be judged.