When InStyle arrived over here in 2001, some observers speculated that this could be a taste of things to come. They were right, up to a point - but not in the way they originally envisaged.
InStyle, launched by Time Life Entertainment on the other side of the Atlantic in 1994, had been one of the US publishing success stories of the 90s. With a glossy blend of celebrity, fashion and beauty, it seemingly represented the best of both worlds for a mid-twenties to late-thirties readership who wanted to look good while indulging in a bit of gossip.
It came from nowhere to command a US circulation of 1.5 million. That put it above Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire in the US league table.
And, as it geared up for launch in the UK, the rival multinational publisher Conde Nast revealed that it too was looking to transplant one of its own recent US success stories, Glamour.
After the big wave of US imports in the late 60s and early 70s, we had seen waves of German (Bella, Best, Prima) and French (Elle, Marie Claire) invasions. Were the Yanks on the march once more?
Well, yes, they were - and it was more serious than we had first thought.
Weeks after Time launched InStyle over here, its parent company, AOL Time Warner, bought our biggest consumer magazine publisher, IPC, for £1.15 billion. Surely we were now going to see a lot of US women's magazine titles and ideas heading our way.
There were those, however, who said that it would never work. They reckoned proven US formats would need substantial tweaking to succeed in a UK market that remains unashamedly quirky. And this argument, they added, applied particularly to InStyle.
Well, perhaps. InStyle's UK edition is no US clone; on the other hand, it still relies heavily on the US title's access to Hollywood celebrities. And its visual style - particularly the montage pages of unmodelled product shots - is very American. Or was. Everyone copies it now.
InStyle threw a fifth birthday bash last week at the Victoria & Albert Museum. These celebrations dovetailed nicely with the arrival of of a new editor: Trish Halpin, formerly the editor of Red, replaces Louise Chunn, who has crossed town to take up the editorship of Good Housekeeping.
1. The UK launch of InStyle, "your personal shopper and friend to the stars", was backed by heavy promotional activity. It teamed up with Estee Lauder and Clinique in-store concession counters to hand out 250,000 sample copies; and a 36-page sampler was distributed with 500,000 copies of the Evening Standard on official launch day, 16 February 2001. Unfortunately, its timing was flawed. Conde Nast's handbag-sized Glamour, the most successful publishing innovation in recent memory, launched days later, and arguably stole some of its thunder. InStyle's newsstand sale for the launch issue was around 200,000, but it slipped in the following months, while Glamour hit the ground running on 600,000 - a figure it has managed to maintain.
2. Many observers thought InStyle would be squeezed on both sides of its constituency. The women's glossy market was already overcrowded and the celebrity arena was about to get even more ferociously competitive - Heat joined OK! and Now in 1999, Closer launched in 2002.
3. Indeed, InStyle's grip on the UK market looked tenuous under its launch editor, Dee Nolan. But in 2002, when Nolan departed, to be replaced by her deputy, Chunn, circulation began to climb. Under Nolan, it was stuck at just over 150,000. Its January-December 2002 Audit Bureau of Circulations figure was 175,245, a 14.7 per cent year-on-year increase. Its figure then kept climbing steadily. Its July-December 2005 ABC figure was 196,857.
4. In May 2004, it beat Glamour, Red and Eve to the Periodical Publishers Association Best Consumer Magazine Award.
5. InStyle's readership is 272,000 (National Readership Survey, January-December 2005). Its target audience is ABC1 professional women aged 25 to 40, and the median age of its readership is currently 29. Housed in IPC's SouthBank division under its managing director, Jackie Newcombe, its ad director is Glenda Marchant. A full-page ad, according to its ratecard, will set you back £16,656. It runs a lower percentage of ad pages than comparable glossy monthly rivals.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...
- Advertisers value its availability as an option - but, because of its relatively modest circulation, it's always likely to be a marginal consideration for the more mainstream cosmetics brands. For luxury goods, where tighter targeting is more important, it's likely to be higher up the agenda.
- Paul Thomas, the investment director for non-TV buying at MindShare, says: "In many ways it's not a traditional women's monthly magazine, and I think it took a while for people to work out what it was about - but now it has some very staunch readers."
- Jane Wolfson, the head of press at Initiative, agrees: "It's stylish, has never lost its edge and its lack of clutter is attractive."
- InStyle's continued robust performance perhaps proves there is still life in the monthly market despite the emergence of weeklies, such as Grazia, with designs on high-end monthly readership.
- As Dan Pimm, the head of press at Universal McCann, puts it: "InStyle is distinctive but it hasn't created a brand-new market - instead it has had an effect on other magazines, particularly its 'cleaner' look and its product feature pages. It's a distinctive product but I think its relatively modest success proves that what works in the US doesn't necessarily work in the same way over here."