Posts Tagged ‘1958’

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