CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/NEW YORK'S EX-PAT EDITORS - How British editors do it their way in the Big Apple. Dee Nolan must establish her profile to survive New York, Matthew Cowen says

Dee Nolan must have enjoyed the press attention that greeted her appointment as InStyle's UK editor. By agreeing to a new role as Time Inc's New York-based editor-at-large, she's signed herself up to a far more intrusive world.

Nolan's position hardly seems a high-profile one - backroom discussions with Time's existing editors will probably make up the bulk of it. But, if she's to make any kind of splash in Manhattan, then at some point her name will have to make it into the newspapers.

In New York, media matters are mainstream. Journalists and editors don't just read about themselves in the pages of the trades - they do so in the weekly New York Observer and the mass-market New York Post. Any dispute over a title's direction is liable to end up in their pages.

And disputes are always likely. British editors - or editors, such as Nolan, who've learned their trade in British publishing - have a style of doing things that runs at odds with that of most New York publishing houses. It's made them highly prized assets. But it's also made them vulnerable to public scorn when things go wrong.

The perfect example of this is provided by Tina Brown, whose stateside career has attracted so much buzz some commentators contend that she invented the word. Summoned by Conde Nast's chairman, Si Newhouse, to revive the staid Vanity Fair in 1984, Brown recreated the title around her vision of modern celebrity as a glittering fusion of the cultural and political. Her success there and at the equally fusty New Yorker led to some regarding her as the best editor working in the English language.

Others, though, preferred to stress her reputation as a voracious self-publicist and whip-cracking perfectionist, who was ruthlessly ambitious and didn't suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. With the failure of Talk, Brown's high-profile, Miramax-backed launch, last year, these less welcome opinions were given a thorough airing.

Brown was brought up in the UK's newsstand-driven magazine market, where intense competition is maintained through frequent launches and circulations tend to fluctuate fairly wildly. Her editorial style stuck out a mile in the US, where the high cost of launching a title keeps the number of magazine contenders down and the predominant subscription-based model means circulations tend to drift up and down rather than leap. A naturally greater sense of urgency gave her the potential to both bruise egos and transform a magazine's fortunes to a degree unheard of among those used to lengthy editorial meetings and layers of publishing bureaucracy.

"British editors tend to have reputations as more dynamic, ruthless and energetic,

says Mike Soutar, now the managing director of IPC Ignite!, who took the US version of Maxim from a circulation of one million to two million in a year as editor. "US magazines employ twice the staff generally. Their production process is far more drawn out."

Brown's personal profile was further enhanced by possession of a trademark editorial style, a distinctive focus on celebrity as she saw it that not only guaranteed her a high social profile, but also ensured publishers knew what to expect from her. Such patented editorial touches have proved a crucial asset for other Brits seeking to take on Manhattan.

When she arrived as the editor of Marie Claire's US edition in 1996, Glenda Bailey already held a string of awards from her eight years heading the British version. Over the next five years she picked up a further sackful through leadership of a title whose features became synonymous with her. Marie Claire had bold cover lines with big numbers. It had an unashamed focus on shopping as well as fashion and it squeezed every ounce of PR value out of its pieces by inviting celebrities to guest edit issues or interview their celebrity friends, rather than simply appearing as the subjects of profiles. Bailey's calling card was unashamed commercialism with class - and it made her an extremely valuable property.

Manhattan's delight in viewing magazines as extensions of their editors' personalities tends to create personality cults around any larger-than-life figure holding the reins - whether it's a British accent or any other personal touch that marks them out.

The British editor who is least at liberty to revamp her title in her own image has successfully reversed the process by developing a personal style perfectly in tune with her pages. With her stick-thin figure, near everpresent Jackie O sunglasses and perfectly judged outfits, Anna Wintour is the embodiment of Vogue - a title so powerful and influential it could never be made over so radically.

The obvious weakness in Nolan's position is that, unlike her predecessors in crossing the pond, she lacks a distinct editorial platform with which to establish her reputation. Nor has her stint as InStyle's UK editor given her the kind of big name that New York generally respects. She must hope this changes quickly, since in this town, there's only one thing worse than being talked about ...

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