OPINION: MILLS ON ... THE NOVA RELAUNCH

For all its reputation for world-class bitchiness, the glossy magazine industry can also show a refreshing generosity of spirit from time to time. I’m referring to IPC’s launch last week of Nova (relaunch would be a better word but I suspect most of the target market are oblivious to that fact) in which you sense - in what makes a pleasant change - the industry willing it to succeed.

For all its reputation for world-class bitchiness, the glossy

magazine industry can also show a refreshing generosity of spirit from

time to time. I’m referring to IPC’s launch last week of Nova (relaunch

would be a better word but I suspect most of the target market are

oblivious to that fact) in which you sense - in what makes a pleasant

change - the industry willing it to succeed.



Now IPC shouldn’t kid itself that this is based on much more than a

feeling of nostalgia - something which it is milking for all it’s worth.

For Nova is the magazine that got away - a critical success and an

influence way beyond its actual achievements, but a commercial failure.

But, as failures go, it was noble and glorious, so much so that you can

still find people who claim to have worked on Nova even if they patently

could not have done.



Clearly for IPC, Nova is a title of huge significance - and not just

commercially. Things have not gone completely smoothly since the buyout

from Reed, and the lustre that a successful title such as Nova can bring

would do wonders for the company’s morale, not to mention its ability to

recruit (and hang on to) staff as well as give advertisers a warm

buzz.



So much for the touchy-feely stuff, none of which will matter unless

Nova succeeds second time around. The underlying proposition behind the

magazine is that there is a major demographic and socio-economic shift

going on in the women’s market. We’re familiar with the descriptives:

older, independent, more affluent, career-minded and so on. In magazine

terms, this means they want something more intelligent than the usual

sex/relationships/fashion/cellulite/horoscopes formula - exactly what

Nova offered the first time round, except it was 25 years too early.



So is it the right time now? It’s an important question - and not just

for other publishers with upcoming launches looking to tap into a

similar advertising market, but for all media owners. Add up their

numbers, their purchasing power and their status as opinion formers, and

it’s probably no exaggeration to say this is a critical market. But,

ultimately, success will depend on widening the pool of women’s magazine

advertisers and wooing some of the brands that habitually use TV.



So how does the first issue stack up? There’s certainly something

appealing about it. The model on the front cover combines 60s retro

(think the Kings Road in ’the summer of love’) with contemporary chic.

There aren’t even any cover lines, which I’m all in favour of but others

will call brave.



The look inside is cool and understated with lots of white space and

little of the visual or verbal clutter that many women’s magazines

regard as de rigueur. The attempt to find and strike the right attitude

seems a bit self-conscious to me, but then I’m hardly in the target

market. At pounds 1.50, Nova should get plenty of trial.



If there is one thing IPC has to watch, it’s the management of

expectations.



The last magazine which so deliberately set out its stall in a ’we’re

really different’ way was Frank. Unless it is careful, overplaying the

nostalgia card may also prove to be a rod for IPC’s back.



dominic.mills@haynet.com.



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