LONDON’S LITANY OF LAUNCHES
NEW TITLES SUCH AS IN STYLE AND GLAMOUR ARE SHAKING UP THE OLD GUARD.
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — British publishers hope a dash of the new will reinvigorate the old.
The U.K. magazine market is struggling with flat or declining circulations across such major categories as women’s and men’s fashion and lifestyle, cooking and the home. Recent figures from the British Audit Bureau of Circulation showed overall circulation in the women’s fashion and lifestyle category dipped 0.5 percent to 7,939,202 in the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2000. Such major titles as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire and New Woman registered negligible circulation rises in the last six months of the year and, in some cases, declines of up to 11 percent.
Industry observers blame the blahs on the lack of significant launches over the last few years, too many magazines chasing the same readers, and a demographic shift that has seen young people less keen to spend their money on magazines in favor of mobile telephones and going out.
But publishers believe the British market has bottomed out. Stephen Quinn, publishing director of British Vogue, said the overall picture has been steady and even such small launches as Nova and Bare performed well last year.
“We’ve not done bad to stand still, but standing still isn’t exciting,” he said.
That excitement should come from a string of launches this year covering everything from celebrities to young fashion. The hope is that the buzz generated by the new magazines will reenergize the lackluster British market.
The two largest launches are the British versions of In Style from Time Inc., and Glamour from Conde Nast U.K., which both hit newsstands in the last two weeks. The two companies are investing about $7.25 million each this year on marketing and advertising — among the highest ever spent in the U.K. on a magazine launch. Nicholas Coleridge, managing director of Conde Nast U.K., said the company expects to invest more than $20 million in Glamour over the next four years. A similar expenditure will occur in Germany, where the company is also launching the title.
“We feel Glamour could really boost the sector,” Simon Kippin, the magazine’s publisher, said. “It’s been 13 years since something of real scale was launched in this market. That’s a long time.”
While both In Style and Glamour will be heavily focused on celebrities, beauty and fashion, executives at the two magazines insist they don’t compete. What the two titles do have in common is an optimism that’s well-established in the U.S. versions but is relatively unknown in the U.K. In Style and Glamour make no attempts to hide it: they want to be happy.
“In Style will bring a lot of women back to reading magazines who dropped the habit,” Dee Nolan, the title’s editor, said. “We are a very focused magazine that doesn’t try to cater to her emotional life or her psychological life. We’re focused on style and the upbeat and are a combination of the glamorous and the practical.”
Katy Egan, In Style’s publisher, said the key to the magazine’s future is that there’s nothing like it in Britain. Such existing celebrity titles as Hello and OK!, which are both weekly, are more gossipy and less interested in fashion or beauty, she said. Egan declined to reveal a circulation target for the British In Style, which had 72 ad pages in its 200-page launch issue. But she expects it to follow the pattern of German In Style, which had an initial circulation of 110,000 copies a month and is now selling more than 200,000.
“We are prepared for this to be a very word-of-mouth thing, which is what happened in the U.S.,” Egan said. “We’re prepared for this to take time.”
Conde Nast has a different attitude with Glamour, which has an initial circulation target of 200,000 and eventually hopes it will sell more than 300,000. At that level it would be just below such market leaders as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, both of which lost circulation in the last six months.
Glamour’s 308-page launch issue has 172 ad pages. Jo Elvin, its editor, is optimistic about the new magazine’s success because of its unique format and attitude. The format was adopted from the paperback-book sized Italian Glamour while its attitude is firmly American, but with a British twist.
“I see us as a hybrid of the Italian and the American Glamours,” Elvin said. “We wanted to bring that Italian sense of fashion and style, although it’s a bit edgier than we will be. I also wanted to inject that American sensibility of glamour, sunniness and optimism. There’s nothing here that has that attitude, and I felt it was particularly important to bring that to this market.”
In Style and Glamour will be followed by a number of other launches this year, most of which will start out as biannual titles. It’s the continuation of a major British trend — limited frequency magazines focused on niche markets with circulations of 75,000 to 110,000. The trend gathered steam last year with the launches of the fashion titles Pop and The Fashion, both from Emap Elan. Pop is edited by Katie Grand and had 282 pages in its second issue, which appeared late last month. The second issue of The Fashion, edited by Sarah Mower, appeared at about the same time and had 250 pages.
This month saw the introduction of Ampersand, which will appear four times this year and then will become monthly in 2002, and the biannual Dolce Vita, the men’s magazine with the soft core edge from Versace men’s wear designer Kinder Aggugini. Versace has taken all the ads in the launch issue.
Jonathan Kern, the founder of Ampersand, said the magazine is aiming for a circulation of about 250,000 including free distribution in selected fashion retailers and hotels. Newsstand sales should only be about 30,000 copies per issue, Kern said. Ampersand focuses on the edgy and fun side of London, with such contributing editors as Nick Mason of Pink Floyd as the motoring correspondent and Rocky Mazzilli of Voyage as the nightlife correspondent.
“We feel there is a niche, although not a new one, for a good read along with the lifestyle elements of the other magazines. It’s what the new discerning reader is after,” said Andrew Harvey, Ampersand’s editor.
Another Magazine also will focus on the edgy side of the market. The fashion title for women and men from the creators of Dazed & Confused will launch this fall. Its editor is stylist Katy England and art director is Alex Wiederin of A&R Media in New York. The large-format Another is aiming for a circulation of about 110,000 copies a month as well as 10,000 limited-edition issues in hardback.
Meanwhile, Time will lend its weight this fall to the third magazine from its Wallpaper stable, which currently is codenamed Project Palma. Tyler Brule, Wallpaper’s editorial director, describes the new biannual magazine as a “fashion directory” that will sum up each season’s major fashion looks as well as trends in retail and society. The magazine has appointed Anne Urbauer, a former modern living editor at the German magazine Stern, as its executive editor. Project Palma follows the launch last year of Wallpaper’s biannual sports magazine Line, the second issue of which will appear this spring.
Hearst’s U.K. subsidiary, National Magazines, plans this fall to weigh in with a British version of Cosmogirl! and Emap reportedly is looking to introduce a British Elle Girl. Both would be aimed at regenerating the struggling market for teen magazines, where such existing titles as Sugar, Top of the Pops and J17 saw sharp circulation declines last year.
Quinn of Vogue believes all the launch activity should be good for the overall magazine sector, in terms of advertising as well as circulation. He also believes the investments being made by Time and Conde Nast mean any major launches in the U.K. in the future will have to be on a similar scale.
“You need to buy that business,” Quinn said. “There is no point in claiming you’re going for high stakes and then spending a tiny amount of money.
“There is a lot of weak magazine product out there that is going nowhere and can’t be revived,” he added. “So it’s absolutely essential to have strong magazine brands to appeal to advertisers and maintain the importance of magazines to that market. We should be positively hopeful the big launches work and we all see more women going into news agents and buying several magazines. That would be the best thing for all of us.”