MEDIA: HEADLINER - King Arthur takes the lifestyle throne at expansionist Beeb/Marcus Arthur is eager to embrace his new five-title role, Anna Griffiths reports

It’s Friday and it’s Marcus Arthur’s 33rd birthday. In the bowels of the Halcyon, a favoured haunt of BBC types, Arthur is bearing up pretty well, considering he’s got six exams for his part-time MBA over the weekend.

It’s Friday and it’s Marcus Arthur’s 33rd birthday. In the bowels

of the Halcyon, a favoured haunt of BBC types, Arthur is bearing up

pretty well, considering he’s got six exams for his part-time MBA over

the weekend.



But then he likes a challenge and takes masochistic satisfaction in a

doubled workload.



Arthur was promoted last week to the new role of publishing director

across BBC Magazines’ lifestyle titles. This tall, dark Glaswegian is

responsible for the rather homely brands of BBC Gardener’s World, BBC

Homes & Antiques, BBC Good Homes, BBC Good Food and BBC Vegetarian

Food.



He was already publisher of the first three, but in line with BBC

Magazines’ increased focus on its revenue and competitive armoury, it

was felt that somebody should oversee all five titles.



The rumours of a BBC woman’s magazine being cultured in secret have

added to the sense of excitement around the emerging ’lifestyle group’.

It appears to be no accident that Justine Southall, who was ad director

of some of IPC SouthBank’s leading women’s titles, has recently surfaced

as ad director across the BBC lifestyle group.



Arthur is politely diffident when I ask him how he will fare in this

fast-expanding corner of the corporation. ’By 2006 we have to treble the

contribution to the BBC and to do that we have to increase the number of

products we have. So we are interested in any market we can publish in.

As to the women’s market - well, we don’t have any women’s titles, but

in the lifestyle group the majority of readers are women - so draw your

conclusions from there.’



Seamus Geoghegan, director of BBC Worldwide’s Lifestyle, UK Region,

evidently admires his choice for the new role but is less certain if his

remit will extend beyond the five existing brands. ’We’ve got plans to

grow the lifestyle group,’ he admits. ’I wouldn’t expect Marcus to go

beyond the five magazines. If I was adding another major title, which is

certainly my ambition, it would need someone full-time, which wouldn’t

necessarily be Marcus.’



Arthur is studying his MBA to round out his experience. After gaining a

postgraduate degree in marketing at Strathclyde University, he followed

some of his friends down to London and wound up at Redwood Publishing,

working on M&S Magazine. Through BBC Worldwide’s stake in Redwood,

Arthur migrated to Worldwide and has never looked back. From a sales

executive to group publisher, he has worked his way through the ranks

and one senses that he is always thinking about his next step.



He admits to being ’quite driven’ but says that for the moment he’s

happy with his new job. ’You’re going to hate this,’ he says in his

broad Glaswegian drawl, ’but I love the job I do. I get frustrated when

you find you’re not quite getting there, and it’s not as quick as you

want it to be. If we sell 150,000 copies of a magazine I want to sell

180,000.’



Judith Hall, editor-in-chief of BBC Homes & Antiques, gives him a

glowing school report. ’He’s an extraordinary galvaniser of people. He

has so much energy and works bloody hard at everything, soaking it all

up like a sponge.’



The successful launch of BBC Good Homes last year and his work on BBC

Homes & Antiques led to his being named publisher of the year in

consumer magazines at the Periodical Publishers’ Association Awards in

May. The judges at the time said he had been chosen for his ’clear sense

of personal drive and enthusiasm’.



Arthur is mindful that there are gaps in his experience. ’It’s easier to

learn the commercial side than the creative side. If you don’t have that

creative bent you form creative partnerships. So the most important

thing I need to do is to work with editors.’



Good Food and Vegetarian Good Food both suffered year-on-year declines

in the last ABC period, so Arthur will need a few cunning plans up his

sleeve if he wants to retain golden boy status.



He will also be responsible for developing the five brands overseas,

where BBC Worldwide is looking to expand at the moment. Geoghegan says:

’We are in conversations with Australia about Good Food and we are

exploring territories in the US. We’ve got to be able to realise the

opportunities internationally and at the moment we have to tidy all of

that up.’



Once the weekend’s exams are over, Arthur can’t wait to get stuck

in.



In his endearing Scots brogue he gushes: ’I love all the wee bits and

the jigsaw that fits together.’



THE ARTHUR FILE

1990

M&S Magazine, Redwood Publishing, sales executive

1992

BBC Good Food, BBC Worldwide/Enterprises, senior sales executive

1994

Good Food, Vegetarian Food, ad manager

1996

Homes & Antiques, Gardener’s World, associate publisher

1998

Good Homes, Homes & Antiques, Gardener’s World, publisher

1999

BBC Lifestyle Magazines, publisher



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