MEDIA HEADLINER: Emap’s music maestro is still passionate about publishing - Barry McIlheney’s new job means more titles for him to love. By Eleanor Trickett

It’s a good job it took a while to dig out Barry McIlheney’s photo from the Campaign archive. Had I made the London to Paris phone call to the new chief executive of the Emap Elan Network after I’d clocked his picture, I might have been a lot less relaxed. A man resembling a strict, besuited bank manager does not put one at ease.

It’s a good job it took a while to dig out Barry McIlheney’s photo

from the Campaign archive. Had I made the London to Paris phone call to

the new chief executive of the Emap Elan Network after I’d clocked his

picture, I might have been a lot less relaxed. A man resembling a

strict, besuited bank manager does not put one at ease.



Instead I found myself in awe of his rock ’n’ roll background - not

least because of his stint as the editor of Smash Hits in the heady

ra-ra skirted, black-eyelinered days of the mid-80s, and as managing

director of Emap Metro where he was responsible for deliciously anoraky

titles such as Q and Mojo. His prodigious name-dropping and evident

passion for magazines adds to the glamour.



For McIlheney to have reached these new heights, Emap staffers had to

undergo a reshuffle. The main mover is the role’s last incumbent (even

though Emap Elan Network has existed for only three months) Paul Keenan,

who is now the new chief executive of Emap Digital. But McIlheney has

also diligently climbed the ladder at Emap, having trawled through

dozens of jobs since his first day at Mappin House some 14 years ago. He

was fresh from Ireland where he had a job as a public librarian and

part-time reviewer for the local press.



Like many senior people at Emap, McIlheney started off on the editorial

rather than sales side. And, like many senior people at Emap, he insists

that a publishing job in the company can be just as creative as an

editorial one.



’Because it’s such an editorially led company, I didn’t feel like I was

suddenly becoming a suit. You can publish in a very creative way. Mind

you,’ he adds, ’FHM asked me to do something last week. I’m very

pleased, but I think I might be a bit rusty now.’



McIlheney has no Machiavellian masterplan for the future of the Emap

Elan Network. In fact, his deference to Keenan (’he did such a wonderful

job that I’d be a fool to come in and try and change it’) is such that

it could almost be portrayed as lack of ambition.



As one former colleague put it: ’I wouldn’t necessarily put him up there

with the high-fliers. He’s not a typical cut-throat advertising

executive and would find some decisions very hard to make.’



But what McIlheney may lack in director-level welly he makes up for with

his breathless passion and childlike glee whenever a title pops into the

conversation. Most of our conversation revolves around his devotion to

his babies - 22 lifestyle titles from Heat to Red, Elle to Arena and, of

course, his beloved FHM (he was managing director during its glory

years).



When asked which Emap titles he would buy if he didn’t work there, he

chuckles and takes the opportunity to drop another name: ’I used to ask

Oliver Stone what his favourite films were and he’d say it’s like trying

to choose your favourite child. I read and absorb all the Emap

titles.’



The sheer tangibility of magazines is clearly what yanks his crank. ’You

have an emotional engagement with them,’ he says. ’They’re part of you;

a badge. They say something about you in a way that other media don’t.’

And it’s possibly this natural excitement that caused Keenan to say:

’Emap Metro made history when he was its managing director’.



Obviously, McIlheney has plans. There is room for further expansion of

the FHM brand. He wants to get more involved with Heat (although it’s

’not a million miles away’ from its 100,000 target), and more product

extensions are planned.



’You’ve got to pick from the titles the ones that are still in

expansion,’ he says of his recipe for successful spin-offs such as FHM

Bionic and Red Direct.



’With FHM, because you have such a long magazine, it’s easier to run off

different segments of it. I’m sure other titles such as Red, More, The

Face and Arena will eventually be more than just a magazine.’



This is, indeed, a grand job for one whose first journalistic assignment

was to interview Status Quo for a small Irish music magazine. But rather

than being a global cut-and-thrust type such as, for instance, his

former FHM editor Mike Soutar, now in New York at Maxim, (who attests to

McIlheney’s blokiness by saying: ’You see him as he is, there’s no

hidden agenda. You’ll have got just as good an impression on the phone

as if you’d met him’), he’s more likely to be seen behind a teetering

pile of magazines, inky fingers scratching his head as he ponders his

next winning formula.





THE MCILHENEY FILE



1984: London Newspaper Group, reporter



1985: Melody Maker, features editor



1986: Smash Hits, editor



1989: Empire, editor



1992: Emap Metro, publishing director



1994: Emap Metro, managing director



1999: Emap Hommes (France), managing director



2000: FHM Worldwide, managing director



2000: Emap Elan Network, chief executive.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).