PERSPECTIVE: Arguments aired at PPA signal the rude health of publishing

As the magazine fraternity emerges from its collective hangover this morning, it’s time for a closer look at the winners of the latest Periodical Publishers Association awards, held at the Grosvenor House last night.

As the magazine fraternity emerges from its collective hangover

this morning, it’s time for a closer look at the winners of the latest

Periodical Publishers Association awards, held at the Grosvenor House

last night.



While it’s impossible to prescribe a formula for success from the

victors - among them Men’s Health (best consumer magazine), Prima

(consumer editor of the year for Lindsay Nicholson), Building (business

magazine of the year) and room (contract magazine of the year for Ikea)

- intelligent editorial and high production values clearly stand

out.



The fact that such continued quality comes at a time of real change for

the industry makes the achievements even more significant. A lot’s

happened in the world of magazine publishing since the last PPA

conference and awards a year ago (see page 8). So much so, in fact, that

it’s tempting to proclaim that the industry is cocked ready to spring

into the new millennium.



Tempting, perhaps, but premature. The glitzy PPA shindig provides a

forum for publishers to exorcise their business frustrations before the

ritual back-slapping awards. And the frustrations aired this year

suggest that, for all the talk of brand development and embracing new

technologies, the industry is still struggling with the opportunities of

today, let alone tomorrow.



Having heard so much about the potential to expand magazine brands into

TV, it’s sobering to find the reality comes with more caveats than the

masthead programming champions anticipated.



As for electronic media, while opportunities exist for taking familiar

magazine brands into internet publishing, the publishers themselves have

yet to master the online medium. For those who fail to embrace it, the

opportunity could become a threat.



Customer magazines, one of publishing’s most burgeoning sectors, are

dismissed by one consumer publisher as a worthless drain on readers’

leisure time, the magazine equivalent of junk food.



Meanwhile, one of the building blocks of the magazine industry, the

National Readership Surveys, which provides research for both newspapers

and magazines, is being torn by a split over its future between the two

sides of the industry.



But all of this public tussling is par for the course at industry

conferences and a sign of a mature business. The truth is that magazine

companies are actually getting better at working together on issues that

affect them all, such as the increasing pressure on consumer leisure

time from other media. Yes, there are conflicting interests to

accommodate but there are also real advantages to be had from

co-operation in areas of common concern.



And after the arguments have raged, the debates aired and work begun on

tackling the problems, there are the awards. They underline that,

despite it all, the UK publishing industry still produces some bloody

good magazines.



claire.beale@haynet.com



Stefano Hatfield is away.



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