Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sunday paper + magazine format = news weekly

When Picture Post ceased publication the news weekly format was thought to be a defunct form for the UK, outmanoeuvred by radio and television, undermined by the colour magazines offered by Sunday newspapers.

Sir James Goldsmith had a go at reviving it in 1979 but (the original) Now magazine proved to be a relatively short-lived venture.
"Now!, a weekly news magazine, launched by Cavenham Communications, controlled by Sir James Goldsmith. Hit 410,000 sales before closing in 1981 with losses of £6m" (from

Then came The Week, founded in 1995 and later financed by Felix Dennis. The Week has turned out to be a publishing phenomenon - the right form and format at the right time.
It makes a perfect read-on-the-train purchase (along with Private Eye) and gives its readers a feelgood sense of keeping up with world affairs without ramming it down their throats. Part of its appeal is its defiant non-glossiness.

Now the Independent on Sunday is about to turn a large part of itself into a magazine format news weekly, according to this well sourced story in Press Gazette.

Students of irony might like to bathe in this completion of the circle of history and it just might work, but let's not forget that The Week is available every day of the week and the IoS is available on only one.

Have a look: The Week

History: Time magazine on Picture Post

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Teens DO read print mags

Contrary to perceived opinion - and the circulation figures for several once giant magazines - teenagers ARE still reading magazines, according to Advertising Age.

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Monocle: One Eyed Jack

I should have written something about Monocle straight after buying the first issue in March, but somehow I just couldn't muster up the energy.

Too late now because 'Ian' has said just about everything that I would have said in this blog entry.

In some ways Monocle is a brave venture (I salute anyone who starts a magazine and this print/online project is nothing if not ambitious) but it also illustrates many of the pitfalls which people less experienced than Tyler Brule make when they launch. The editor's letter in the first issue made it clear who the target reader was but the magazine itself was much less focused, too bitty, too incoherent overall.

Lousy photography too. If you're aiming at design conscious trendsters then you need to be right on top of the images but too many of the pix in issue 1 were dull townscapes (funny how many towns look the same when photographed from a high rise hotel bedroom window) with colour casts and really boring compositions. The captions were even duller.

And my dear, the product placement. Ian comments quite scathingly on the Manga cartoon, which I thought was OK and a possible reason to buy the next issue, but the very obvious placement of an Audi TT and the new Prada phone (coincidentally also featured in the 'fashion briefing', so you could compare the photo and the drawing – very lifelike) was extremely off-putting. Likewise the editorial choice of a Skeppshult bicycle to do some sightseeing/shopping in Lisbon and my goodness what's this on page 178? A full colour advert for the very same brand.

To be fair I found interesting material in between the fluff but not enough to motivate me to make another £5 purchase.

What Monocle reminded me of more than anything was James Brown's brave new venture after loaded, the pocket-size Jack. Charismatic editor with a certain reputation and one successful launch behind him? Check. Small format? Check. "Different" content? Check. Not quite all there? Check.

I doubt, however, that Felix Dennis will come to the (short lived) rescue of this one.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keywords for magazine mastheads

Magazine and popular music guru David Hepworth suggests in his column in this week's MediaGuardian that, 'The most overused word in the world of magazines is not "lunch" or "darling". It's "aspirational".'

Certainly 'aspirational' is a good word and one that I may even have used myself, but let's not forget 'sassy' and 'irreverent'.

Sassy is almost always used in connection with women's magazines and as if to illustrate this point it was actually used as the title of a magazine in the 1980s. In one sense it is a word very much of that era, and although I fear we may see a decline in its use as teen print magazines fade away, I am sure that the spirit of 'sassy' has a big future in the digital word. Mykindaplace and Jellyfish seem custom made for it. And let's not forget the brave new face of sassy central, Cosmogirl.

Irreverent is also a young-women's-mag kind of word but in an interestingly unisex irony it is also a description frequently applied to mags for young men. Since the dawn of loaded, irreverence has had an honoured place in the lexicon of lad. (And is also, by a pleasingly symmetrical coincidence, itself the title of a magazine.)

The trouble is that most people and things which describe themselves as irreverent, like those who describe themselves as zany, generally aren't. Irreverent is Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg church; irreverent is Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on that bus. It is not making jokes about football while looking at pictures of women in their pants.

There is probably a similar argument to be made about sassy, so I guess that Hepworth is right after all: those who have neither sass nor irrev merely aspire to it (or to a very watery version of it).

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Emap Top Bod Walks

Tom Moloney has quit Emap.

All I can say, as a former Emap NUJ FOC, is it couldn't happen to a nicer fellow.

More details about his going here and here.

And maybe that clever division of the company which he oversaw in his early days wasn't quite as clever after all, given the revived speculation about a takeover. Although shareholders such as myself will enjoy the rise in share prices which this causes. But then doubtless Mr Moloney is pretty well off for shares too.

ADDENDUM: See the Magforum blog entry for a much more grown-up and informative take on this story.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More turmoil for Teens

The teen magazine sector will be saying goodbye to another title after the BBC's decision to fold It's Hot.

The gossip-and-entertainment title suffered a circulation drop of 11.4% in 2006, leaving it with a relegation-spot 57,013 copies per issue.

It's Hot never quite lived up to its pre-launch hype:
The new magazine will feature the hottest pop, TV and movies, with gossip, confessions, star photos and quizzes, plus an official EastEnders comic strip. There has already been a fantastic response to It's Hot!, with more than 3,000 readers of the first preview magazine signing up to join the It's Hot! Club before they have even seen the first full issue. (Click here for more of this)

Five years down the line, the publisher claims that It's Hot is unprofitable, which still sounds like an odd thing for a branch of the BBC to say. How long before Top of the Pops, now BBC Magazines' sole old-school teen mag, goes the same way? If it's not because it is unprofitable, perhaps it will be because it no longer has enough "connectivity" with other BBC activities.

Still who's going to complaint about that except Panini, the well known purchaser of struggling teen magazines Mizz and Bliss?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Outsourcing media jobs

The topic of shifting print media jobs to out-of-office – and even overseas – suppliers has been aired here a few times. Now the concept is being discussed in relation to broadcast production too, as this post from lostremote shows. The idea of UGC content being processed offshore seems particularly apposite, even if its just a primary sort through.

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