Editorial director, Axon Publishing
Keers’ introduction to journalism could hardly have been more consumer
oriented. He got his start by winning a competition organised by
Cosmopolitan to find promising young journalists.
As a result, he worked happily in a role he describes as ’the token
male’ on that title for four years in the early 80s. He worked on the
short-lived Cosmo Man section before a longer stint spent reviewing
records and writing features.
Next came a move to the Daily Mail where he found himself helping
describe and name the burgeoning ’yuppie revolution’. So far, so
But in 1984 he left the Mail and took a job as the editor of
Expressions, the magazine that Redwood produced for American
’My colleagues at the Mail thought I was mad. They didn’t really know
what a customer magazine was - they thought I was insane for leaving
Fleet Street,’ he says. ’But Expressions was the logical extension of
all that yuppie lifestyle stuff that I’d been doing on the Mail - with
the chance to run my own ship thrown in.’
Three years at Redwood ended when an invitation to become deputy editor
of The Telegraph Magazine came up. Next stop was the launch of GQ, with
stints editing that magazine and The Sunday Times Style section. It was
only after five successful years on consumer magazines that Keers moved
back into the contract sector to work for Redwood again on the Intercity
magazine. He then worked on a selection of contract titles for John
’The customer sector seemed, if anything, more exciting when I came
back. There seemed to be more opportunities to develop managerial as
well as journalistic skills.’ In fact, Keers’ enthusiasm was so
pronounced that he formed his own customer publishing company, Axon,
which launched in 1994.
’I think by then there was far more acceptance of the role that customer
publishing plays in the overall publishing mix. We certainly managed to
find support and backing for our company. Since then I’ve noticed that
staff with the sort of national press backgrounds that I had are
increasingly drawn to customer titles. Rates of pay are slightly better,
I suppose, and in consumer titles, when a new editor is hired, that
person often wants to bring in their own staff - so job security on
consumer titles is no longer what it was.
’Most of all, people can see the quality of the magazines that some of
the customer sector produces, and they want to be involved with
Editorial director, Forward Publishing
Ivory spent the first 12 years of her magazine life working her way up
the consumer magazine ladder at Hearst in South Africa and the UK. Eight
years on Cosmopolitan and Femina in Cape Town were followed by a further
four years in the role of roving editorial director at Hearst’s National
Magazine Company in the UK, where she spent time on Harpers & Queen,
Esquire and Country Living.
’Basically, it was a troubleshooting role. I got to spend six or seven
months helping out across a broad range of titles,’ she recalls.
Then, four years ago, the phone rang and William Sieghart, the
co-founder of Forward Publishing, offered her a chance to move into the
world of customer titles.
’Actually, he didn’t have to do much of a sales job on the customer
magazine sector,’ Ivory explains. ’I’d seen an advertising supplement
that Forward had put out with Campaign, so I knew about the company
before I went in.
’I liked what I saw so I agreed to join quite quickly. Part of the
attraction was the chance to work in another part of the publishing
industry, and part was the chance to get in at an early stage at a
company that was clearly growing fast.’
Ivory was employee number 35 at a company that now has more than 100
staff. The agency-type structure at Forward means that she doesn’t get
involved with budgets or cost centres. Instead, she concentrates on
getting the editorial product right.
’We work harder than consumer magazines and produce magazines with far
less waste and far less hanging around than in the consumer sector. The
other big difference is that we know who our readers are because we have
the budget to spend on research.
’Consumer magazines tend not to research readership very much because
it’s expensive - the only contact they have tends to be at readers’
In my experience, the staff tend to recoil with horror when they see who
their readers really are.
’They are much more concerned about writing for their rival
publications. Cosmo, for instance, will have an eye more closely fixed
on what Marie Claire is doing than on what it is that their readers
want. I don’t miss that part of it at all.
’The other big difference is that rates of pay in customer magazine
publishing tend to be a little better, which is obviously very
Editor, M&S Magazine, Redwood Publishing
After 20 years working on a selection of consumer titles, ranging from
Marie Claire Health & Beauty to Woman’s Journal, Price took charge of
her first customer title, Redwood’s M&S Magazine, at the beginning of
’They didn’t have to sell me the idea of customer publishing at all,
although, if I’m being honest, a few years ago they would probably have
had to,’ Price says.
’What attracted me most was the chance to work for an exciting,
expanding company in a magazine market that I was familiar with. While a
few years ago consumer journalists tended to look down a little bit on
those working for contract magazines, that really isn’t the case any
’Having said that, though, of course there are differences. I didn’t
think that it was going to be a complete change as far as the day-to-day
working practices were concerned, and it hasn’t been.
’The main differences lie in the fact that I have become much more
interested in business than I ever was before, and much more involved in
trying to help our client’s business.
’Secondly, the production process on customer titles is much slicker and
more efficient than it was in the consumer sector -the absence of a
client can make journalists a bit cavalier about things like deadlines.
Finally, the rates of pay are a little better.
’There’s also much more scope to negotiate a package for yourself and
much more flexibility about remuneration than there is in the consumer
sector. Editors there don’t have much idea of what budgets really are,
or what you are bringing to the party financially. Customer magazine
executives, of course, have to be more aware.
’The other thing is that we now get lots of applications from
journalists who view working on customer magazines in the same way as
they do consumer titles - namely, as another natural step in a career
progression. There is no real distinction made between customer and
consumer titles any more and I think that’s right.’
Editor, Hot Air, John Brown Publishing
As a consumer journalist, Finer popped up in most of the right
He worked in newspapers at The Sunday Times when Harold Evans, a name
guaranteed to conjure an admiring glance from the most cynical and hard
bitten of hacks, was on board.
There has been plenty of top-drawer magazine experience as well - he was
the deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph Magazine and, in 1990, he
accepted an invitation to become the launch editor of Esquire in the
Incidentally, he opted to put a young Brigitte Bardot on the cover at a
time when other men’s magazines maintained a ’men only’ cover-star
A period at the Sunday Express followed. Then, in 1994, he made the move
to customer publishing when he accepted the editorship of the quarterly
Hot Air, published by John Brown Publishing for Virgin.
’I suppose I made the decision to become a much bigger fish in a smaller
pond,’ he says. ’After so long in consumer publishing one starts to
become part of this huge machine.
The chance to make a real difference starts to seem more appealing.
’I was among the first intake of Fleet Street journalists into customer
publishing at a time when there still was a real difference between the
two. John Brown was a smaller company then, but it blurred the line
because it produced both consumer and customer titles.
’On the other hand, I’ve never needed convincing that the quality of the
product was anything other than news-stand. We are competing with all
the paid-for magazines that people bring on to the plane with them.’
For Finer, the obligation to work specifically for a client hasn’t
affected him journalistically. ’People forget that consumer journalists
are writing for a proprietor in a similar way to the way we write for a
client,’ he says. ’My instinct here is to have nothing to do with Virgin
and I’m sure that’s the right instinct. Virgin is media literate enough
to recognise that it is the right thing. In fact, in some cases we have
far more latitude than consumer titles. We ran a pretty hard-hitting
interview with Tim Roth recently. I’m sure that’s just the sort of thing
no consumer title would have risked.’
Editorial director, Premier Magazines
Proving that there can be life after the editorship of Campaign, Jones
enjoyed six years at the Evening Standard after leaving Haymarket in
1990. His position as media editor left him better qualified than most
journalists to judge the strides that customer publishing has made, even
if he believes that it took him years to even consider running stories
in the Standard about customer publishing groups.
But when he was offered the editorship of High Life in 1996, he didn’t
have to think too hard before accepting. ’High Life was the one customer
title that everyone on the Standard had heard of, so I didn’t really
encounter any great expressions of surprise when I took the job.
’I might have heard more if people knew what attracted me to the role.
The truth is, I didn’t take the job for the reason that they supposed -
that here was this fantastic opportunity to go jetting around the world
writing travel pieces.
’The reason I accepted was because I was interested in the challenge of
making the magazine a great product and also because I was increasingly
interested in the business side of customer publishing. I think that
journalists as a breed are surprisingly entrepreneurial. They want to
get involved with more than just writing the same pieces in different
’It might be half true that a position in customer publishing was a sort
of pre-retirement staging post for Fleet Street journalists in the past,
but it hasn’t been like that for some time. I had no problem persuading
journalists of the calibre of Rhys William, who edited The Londoner’s
Diary on the Standard and was at The Independent, that Premier was a
natural staging post in a good journalistic career.
’It’s not really the money either - pay levels between the customer and
the consumer sectors are now a lot closer than they once were. The
deciding factor is the chance to try different things and the
opportunity to take a business responsibility for projects.’