Posts Tagged ‘woman’s own’

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

 

 


Magazine mantra: ‘No heads above the masthead’

May 9, 2016
Front cover title from Woman's Own from 19 May 1955

Front cover title from this 1955 Woman’s Own magazine overlays actress Dawn Addams

The typographer Dave Farey reminded me of the magazine designer’s mantra ‘No heads above the masthead’ at the recent launch of A History of British Magazine Design. So he immediately came to mind when I saw this front cover design from Woman’s Own dating back to 19 May 1955.

The full magazine front cover from Woman's Own ahowing the Dawn Addams knitted jacket

The full magazine front cover from Woman’s Own showing the Dawn Addams knitted playtime jacket

The actress Dawn Addams is photographed modelling a knitted jacket, but quite what the designer was up to is a mystery.

Were the film star’s eyes deliberately positioned to peer round the letters? Was the photograph cropped to show the most of the jacket? Whatever the intention, the end result is a mess.

Addams was a ‘delightfully vivacious’ British-born actress who had recently married an Italian prince, the ‘darkly handsome’ Vittorio Massimo, and had her first baby.

 

 

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.

 

Self-referential covers 3: the recursive John Bull

April 10, 2015
John Bull 1946 March 2 first edition in colour with a cover by Clixby Watson

John Bull 1946 March 2 – first edition in colour with a cover by Clixby Watson

This John Bull cover marked the 1946 relaunch of what was one of the biggest-selling magazines with a fresh editorial approach led by a full colour cover. Since its launch, John Bull had always been a monochrome weekly magazine, with advertising on the cover since the 1920s and throughout the war. It dated back to 1906 as the brainchild of the swindling MP Horation Bottomley. It may well have been the biggest-selling magazine until the great success of the BBC’s Radio Times in the early 1930s.

The cover was by Clixby Watson, one of the most sought-after illustrators of the era (and the only Clixby I’ve ever come across). Watson had illustrated Woman magazine since the 1930s along with many other magazines. As well as promoting the magazine, the image promotes the idea of actually buying magazines at a news-stand. Such self-promotion seems to be lost of today’s publishers, who spent their value page space encouraging their readers to put the magazine and turn instead to their mobile phones or television sets.

Scenes of buying magazines – on the street or at railway station stalls – was a regular theme on magazine covers in the first half of the 20th century.  Publishers promoted the retail buying and distribution chain – a link that is being lost today as even the biggest news chains focus on other goods and even charge publishers extra for new launches. The publishers have reacted by adopting the historical US model of focusing on subscriptions, or moving online.

In theory, the illustration is repeated ad infinitum in each cover – it is a recursive, self-referential cover. The composition of the John Bull cover above is very good, as is the the sense of light. Watson uses the angles and diagonals in the image – and the pointing pipe – to focus on the stall holder and everyone is engrossed by the sight of the magazine. Note that ink and paper were still rationed at this stage – and would be until 1952 – so the appearance of a new colour magazine will have made a splash.  The publisher was Odhams (later IPC/Time UK).

This 1946 holiday season cover from John Bull forecasts a web fate for the slumbering  gent

This 1946 cover from John Bull forecasts a wet fate for the slumbering gent

The second John Bull cover here is a twist on the self-referential theme. The cover of the issue that has fallen from the hands of the snoozing holidaymaker predicts the fate that lies in store for him – the tide is coming in and he will soon be up to his waist in seawater. Though at least his hat looks safe.

So there are at least three types of self-referential cover:

  1. recursive – featuring the cover itself within itself: John Bull colour relaunch above and Woman’s Own colour relaunch in 1937. It’s interesting that these fiercely rival publishers – Odhams and George Newnes – should both use the same idea to mark relaunches;
  2. self-referential to other issues of the same title: Woman’s Own 1931 and 1935. What would be the criteria for the choice of cover? Obviously, you would want to to be strong visually, both the main image and the masthead in particular, but also a significant issue – perhaps a bestseller;
  3. self-referential with a twist, John Bull at the seaside, above.

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

 

Self-referential magazine covers 2: Woman’s Own

April 5, 2015
This is the cover for the relaunch of Woman's Own in 1937 as a colour weekly. Note this is a true self referential cover because the woman is holding a copy of the magazine she appears on!

This is the cover for the relaunch of Woman’s Own in 1937 as a colour weekly

Woman’s Own seems to have particularly fond of self-referential covers. It was published by George Newnes, yet its great rival Odhams never seems to have used the technique for Woman.

Although the cover describes it as ‘No 1’, this issue actually marked a relaunch of the five-year old women’s weekly in the face of rival publishing group Odhams opening a colour gravure printing plant in Watford in 1937. It was from this plant that Odhams launched Woman magazine.

The technique of relaunching a magazine at the same time as a rival’s launch, or some other attention-grabbing tactic, is known as a ‘spoiler’ in the business.

The two women’s weeklies are still published today, though both are now controlled by the same company: first IPC when Odhams and Newness merged in the 1960s, and now the UK arm of US group Time Inc.

This is a fully self-referential cover because the woman is holding a copy of the magazine she appears on. Easy to do with an illustration, trickier with a photograph, but not impossible, even before Photoshop made digital image manipulation so easy.

Here are three more self-referential covers, all second world war issues, from 1941, 1943 and 1945. The second is like the one above in that the woman is again holding the cover on which she appears. Wartime covers on women’s magazines were unusual in that many of them depicted men, usually in uniform.

This photographic cover from 1941 shows the model reading another issue of Woman's Own

This photographic cover from March 1941 shows the model reading another issue of Woman’s Own – from December 1940

Another fully self-referential cover from Woman's Own in 1943

Another fully self-referential cover from Woman’s Own in 1943

Womans Own cover from 1945

Woman’s Own cover from March 1945. The issue she is holding looks like one from the start of February

Who is Woman cover illustrator Lovat?

November 21, 2014
Woman magazine from Odhams just three-and-a-half months before the outbreak of World War 2 with an illustration by 'Lovat'

Woman magazine from Odhams just three-and-a-half months before the outbreak of World War 2 with an illustration by ‘Lovat’

A classic cover here for a pre-war Woman magazine from Odhams – and, unusually for this title, the cover artists has signed the image, ‘Lovat’ (15 April 1939).

I immediately thought of Claud Lovat Fraser, who did illustrations for books and the theatre, but he died in 1921.

Woman had only launched in 1937, setting out to rival George Newnes’ Woman’s Own with its own colour gravure presses. At this time, Woman stuck to illustrated covers while Woman’s Own had used photography from its launch in 1932. The early Woman’s Own covers used a second or third spot colour but it ran photographic covers printed gravure that used spot colours in a very sophisticated way to given the impression of full-colour from as early was 1935. Ahead of the Woman launch, in early 1937 it started printing photographic colours in full colour.

Both magazines were printed in Watford, Herts, Odhams having built an Art Deco press hall there in 1937 after Sun Engraving had turned down a takeover. Sun was Britain’s biggest printer and Woman’s Own was one of its customers, along with Vogue and Picture Post to name but two. The Odhams plant is still there, though a big chunk of the site was sold off for an Asda store 25 years ago. Of the Sun plant, nothing is left but a clock!

So who was this Lovat? Any ideas?