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Hachette U.K. at the Starting Gate

LONDON —The cutthroat arena of British magazine publishing has a new player itching to launch more magazines, extend its existing brands and maybe even take one of its titles to the U.S.The group is Hachette U.K.and its goal is to become the...

LONDON —The cutthroat arena of British magazine publishing has a new player itching to launch more magazines, extend its existing brands and maybe even take one of its titles to the U.S.The group is Hachette U.K.and its goal is to become the third-largest magazine pub- lisher in the country.

Some analysts think it will be a stretch for Hachette U.K.to get there,but Vivien Cotterill,managing director of the company formed earlier this year when Hachette Filipacchi Medias bought the London-based Attic Futura,said her most immediate plans involve Elle Girl and Red.Hachette U.K.snatched both ti- tles from the former joint venture it had with rival British publisher Emap.

Cotterill plans to take Elle Girl from a quarterly to a monthly and launch Red, the glossy magazine for affluent 30-to 45 year-olds,in Europe and possibly the U.S.Red ’s current circulation in the U.K. is a little more than 183,000.

“We think Red could be another Elle, in terms of worldwide editions and dis- tribution.We realize that,in the U.S., we ’d have to fight against Redbook —be- cause of the similarity of the name —but we could get around that by working with the content and the image,and using a different title,”said Cotterill over coffee at the former Attic Futura ’s headquarters in London ’s Soho.

She added that taking Elle Girl monthly —which has a circulation of 100,000 —is a golden opportunity for the new company,while admitting there are challenges.”No one else here is doing a monthly like it,”she claimed,before ad- mitting that,”the thing with Elle Girl in the U.K.is that Elle comes in so young — the median age is 24 years old,and read- ers tend to buy up rather than down.”

There ’s also a competitor in the nest: Hachette U.K.’s Sugar,the best-selling girls ’magazine in the U.K.,although it has a younger target of 14-to 15-year- olds.But Cotterill is optimistic.”They may never match in terms of readership and they have very different targets.One is older and more fashion-focused,while the other is more girl-next-door.”

As for market rumors about Teen Vogue ’s interest in launching a U.K.edi- tion to compete with Elle Girl and Sugar, Cotterill said:”It will be a struggle for them because you don ’t find the same de- signer ranges in the U.K.that you find in the U.S.And 16-year-olds here don ’t wear $230 designer jeans.They have $75 a month in pocket money,so they ’re still at the accessorizing stage.”

Sugar — which is more mass market than Elle Girl and focuses more on kiss- ing and quizzes than on fashion —has a circulation of 350,000.It boasts the largest circulation of the nine titles be- longing to Hachette U.K.,which is cur- rently the country ’s fifth-largest publish- er,in terms of circulation,after IPC Media,Emap,Bauer Publishing and BBC World.Hachette U.K.’s retail sales are approximately $75 million.

“We believe there are holes in our sta- ble —and in the market — that we can fill.There ’s a nice gap in the market for a title aimed at the 40-year-old-plus women of middle England who wouldn ’t read Red.Plus,we have no men ’s press, and no targeted press like motoring, movie,or celebrity titles,” she said..

Enter Kevin Hand,executive chair- man of Hachette U.K.who,as the former chief executive officer of Emap,was be- hind Emap ’s launch of laddie mag extra- ordinaire FHM and the celebrity title Heat.Hand resigned under a cloud as Emap ’s ceo last year,having been widely blamed for its disastrous acquisition of the U.S.magazine group Petersen.

Many in the industry see his appoint- ment to Hachette U.K.as the ultimate stroke of revenge.Dissolving the Hachette-Emap venture by taking back the Elle titles and Red appeared to be proof enough of his intentions.

But in a telephone interview,Hand declined to comment on any talk of re- venge,and simply said he ’s focused on the future.”My one concern is to make this a bigger,better company,” he said..

Of course,there ’s always room for new titles,he said,even in a market with 2,500 magazines screaming for attention on the newsstand.

“People ’s habits are changing all the time and there ’s always another threat to reading —whether that ’s television or texting.For us,it ’s just a question of being alive to those changes,finding new angles and staying away from ‘me-too ’ titles..”

Hand also said the U.K.publishers ’ business model of heavy newsstand sell- ing isn ’t necessarily a magic formula.

“I think it is a good thing,but I think that for every U.S.publisher looking to switch models and rely on the news- stand,there is a U.K.publisher looking to increase subscriptions.Subscriptions work when you have loyal customers. And frankly,I don ’t think either model is a broken one.”

Meantime,one London-based media analyst said he was not convinced that Hachette U.K.could become a major force in the market.”Attic Futura ’s titles never posed a massive competition to Emap ’s or IPC ’s titles,with the exception being Sugar,which is a market leader. And I don ’t necessarily think the Elle ti- tles and Red fit into the Attic portfolio very well from an advertising perspec- tive.I think they would have been better off in the Emap portfolio.

“As for Kevin Hand,his performance at Emap wasn ’t great.He understands the market,but a lot of people in this business understand the market.”