CAMPAIGN REPORT ON EUROPEAN MEDIA: Holy grails of European media - Hits in some countries can easily become misses when exported to others Tracey Taylor profiles domestic success stories and identifies the pitfalls and potentials of cross-border expansion

Cloning has become fashionable in the media world. Publishers and broadcasters with proven media formats are looking to replicate their success stories in new markets. In this way, they reason, they will boost revenues and create international brands for the global media marketplace.

Cloning has become fashionable in the media world. Publishers and

broadcasters with proven media formats are looking to replicate their

success stories in new markets. In this way, they reason, they will

boost revenues and create international brands for the global media


Women’s magazines such as Elle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan were

pioneers in the field. More recently, FHM, the successful UK men’s

title, has amassed six foreign editions and is planning to launch into

the Philippines and the US early next year.

However, there are certain gaps in the European media market that have

resolutely refused to be plugged. The model of the national sports

newspaper - so successful in Spain, Italy and France - has only just

been copied in the UK. Popular management magazines raise a host of

questions about national identity and tastes. Gruner & Jahr, hardly a

novice when it comes to exporting media formats, has so far shied away

from launching a British edition of its successful business magazine,

Capital, which exists in Germany and France.

When it comes to stifling foreign imports into the UK, the power of

Britain’s national newspapers has a lot to answer for. The competitive

environment has led to constant editorial innovation, including the

launch of supplements on sport, business, lifestyle and property, all of

which have had the effect of curbing magazine launches in those


And one can’t underestimate the cultural diversity that exists in


Football was a religion for Italian and Spanish men long before it

reached the cult status it now enjoys in the UK.

If there is a trend to spot, it is that many of the seemingly

impenetrable barriers are now being broken down. After many mooted

attempts, Britain now has a national sports newspaper, Sport First -

albeit a weekly. And, with its in-roads into Europe and beyond, Classic

FM is determined to prove that a populist approach to classical music

broadcasting can pay off in any market.


Discussions about media formats that can be exported inevitably turn to

the subject of national sports newspapers.

In many ways, this has been the Holy Grail for UK newspaper publishers

who have looked enviously towards Spain, Italy and France, each of which

supports at least one successful national sports newspaper.

Marca in Spain is a national institution and, like Gazetta dello Sport

in Italy and L’Equipe in France, it feeds off a nation’s obsession with

football. In fact, the southern markets of Europe boast dozens of

soccer-driven newspapers.

Several UK media owners have flirted with the idea of launching a

British equivalent of these European models. The most recent attempt was

Mirror Group’s plan to relaunch Sporting Life as an all-embracing sports

read with TalkCo’s chief executive, Kelvin MacKenzie, and the

ex-Guardian journalist, John Mulholland, at the helm. But the project

was abandoned amid the upheaval caused by the departure of Mirror

Group’s chief executive, David Montgomery, and its subsequent sale to

Trinity Newspapers.

It is only since May 1998 that Britain has had anything resembling a

national sports product. Born with little fanfare, Sport First is the

brainchild of Keith Young, whose previous experience was in

Parliamentary magazines. Published on Sundays, the tabloid now sells

about 90,000 copies a week. The paper’s managing director, Neil Webster,

is well-versed in the market - he was part of the Sporting Life relaunch

team and has spent time working on some of the European sports papers

which he is hoping to emulate.

Webster cites the influence of the UK’s national newspapers as the

reason why sports newspapers have never got off the ground here until

now. ’Apart from The Independent, Sport First and Sunday Business, most

of the UK’s national newspaper groups have been around for generations,’

he says. ’They are very protective of their market share, albeit in a

declining market, and have shied away from backing expensive new


Webster says that research conducted by Mirror Group revealed there was

a market for a sports newspaper which would support sales in excess of

250,000 a day. ’Footballers have achieved demi-God status in Britain,’

he says. ’There is definitely a readership and we believe we can reach

them with a properly packaged paper which has attitude and a point of

view.’ Webster aims to top the 100,000 mark by the autumn, which would

give the paper credibility among potential advertisers.

Although the verdict is still out, Sport First and its backers are

making a valiant attempt to reach that Holy Grail of the British media



Love it or loathe it, the lads’ magazine is undeniably a British


It is also a media species that, until recently, had not emigrated

beyond these shores. However, this is changing as men’s titles such as

FHM, Maxim and Loaded look to export successful formats to overseas


FHM has already broken all records on its home turf. The magazine’s

latest circulation figure of 701,089 puts most women’s titles to shame

and its ’100 sexiest women’ issue reached unprecedented heights, topping

the one million circulation mark earlier this year. FHM’s publisher,

Emap, is understandably keen to see if it can repeat such a successful

formula elsewhere.

So far, the magazine has English-language editions in Australia,

Singapore and Malaysia. There is a licence agreement in Turkey and a

joint venture in South Africa, while plans are afoot to launch an

edition in the Philippines and a US edition in February of next year.

Emap France produced a double-issue French version in June that is

estimated to have sold more than 200,000 copies. According to the

magazine’s international business manager, Simon Greves, other European

countries are high on the agenda.

Greves holds no truck with the view that men in continental Europe are a

different breed, more interested in high fashion than smut and slapdash

humour. ’The brand values of FHM are ’sexy, useful and funny’, and these

have appeal pretty much anywhere,’ he says.

While Greves insists that the formula is transportable, he admits each

edition has to be adapted and ’made relevant’ to the local market.

’There are subtle nuances, although the core brand stays the same,’ he


’French men don’t have the same self-deprecating humour as the British

and, in Singapore, we have to adhere to government guidelines on how

women can be portrayed.’

Maxim’s publishing director, Eric Fuller, tells a similar story. Maxim

has launched editions in the US and under licence in Greece and Italy

and is negotiating with potential partners in France and Germany. ’We

retain the spirit of the original but the execution varies according to

the territory,’ he says. In Greece, for instance, Maxim’s demographic is

much older than in the UK. ’It tends to be read by middle-aged business

tycoons, which is not the core reader in Britain,’ Fuller says.

Charles Courtier, managing director of Media Edge Europe, believes there

are compelling cultural reasons for the historical absence of lads’

magazines outside of Britain. ’There is not the ’homage to lager’

culture in continental Europe that we know here,’ he says. ’Men’s

magazines may have been born in Germany and Italy with Mannen Vogue and

Uomo Vogue, but these are largely driven by an interest in fashion and

therefore support from fashion advertisers. Britain’s youth culture has

always been driven by music, rather than fashion.’

For this reason, Courtier believes, the exported editions of the UK

lads’ magazines will be more conservative and pay more attention to


Whatever the approach, it appears that the phenomenon that

revolutionised UK magazine publishing in the 90s can no longer be

contained. Continental man, prepare to party.


Business magazines are hardly in short supply in the UK. Brad lists more

than 30 broad-based management titles, and there seems to be a launch in

the sector every year or so. However, a truly popular business magazine

with mass appeal has yet to find a niche in the UK.

G&J launched Capital in Germany about 40 years ago, and its sales (it

has a monthly circulation of 284,253) and advertising volume continue to

outstrip its competitors. A French version was launched in 1991 and,

according to G&J’s French subsidiary, Prisma Presse, it is the country’s

best-read title among high-ranking managers. With a circulation of

436,534, it boasts more than three million readers. This compares with

UK circulations of 52,214 for Director magazine and 94,000 for

Management Today.

Prisma Presse’s spokesman, Marc Rassat, attributes the success of

Capital in France to the accessible editorial style. ’When Capital was

launched in France, it deliberately set out to do the opposite of the

existing business titles, which we perceived as being dry and

political,’ he says. ’Capital is colourful and lively in look and feel,

and therefore appeals to a young audience who have grown up in a TV


Although G&J is always looking for opportunities at an international

level (it is in a joint venture with the Financial Times to produce a

German edition of the daily), it has no concrete plans to launch Capital

in the UK. ’The UK has a strong business market but it also has a high

readership of US magazines and good business coverage in the national

newspapers,’ Rassat says.

Georgina Hickey, media director at Carat International, agrees: ’There

is a real newspaper culture in the UK. All the papers have business

sections, many of them whole supplements.’ And there is now the chance

to get business coverage on a Sunday in the form of Sunday Business,

which sells about 55,000 copies a week. Hickey believes it is this

choice that has made magazine publishers think twice about entering the


One that has taken the leap is Caspian Publishing, which launched Real

Business in March 1997. Citing the US magazines, Inc and Fast Company,

as models for the monthly, the title’s editorial director, Stuart Rock,

echoes the G&J view that accessibility is the key to success. ’When we

were crafting Real Business, we felt there was scope for an

independently minded, accessibly written magazine,’ Rock says. He notes

that many of the UK’s management titles have trade association tie-ups -

Director with the Institute of Directors and Management Today with the

Institute of Management.

Despite the apparent success of Real Business (its circulation is

estimated at 42,000 and it has won the praise of readers and PPA awards

judges), Rock admits the business reader is a difficult one to capture.

’There is a lot of inertia in this market and it is not an easy one to

crack,’ he says. It remains to be seen whether a publisher with deep

pockets will be brave enough to have a go at a Capital clone.



Classic FM is in expansionist mode. Peter Don, international operations

director for the station’s parent group, GWR, is in Vienna talking

transmission costs and legislative issues with Austria’s radio

authorities. His aim is to add Austria to the list of countries into

which Classic is imported - Finland, the Netherlands, South Africa and


GWR and Classic FM are banking on the premise that classical music is an

international language. They argue that the audience attracted by

classical music has cross-frontier characteristics which are

demographically appealing to advertisers.

Don also stresses that Classic FM’s success rests a lot on its populist

approach. ’Classic FM works because it plays classical music for the

masses, not for the elite,’ he says. Classic FM is now the fourth most

popular station in the UK with a weekly reach of 5.9 million listeners

and a 4.2 per cent market share - triple that of Radio 3.

But if the format has universal appeal, why has it not been tried before

in continental Europe? Don is the first to admit GWR’s success in new

markets relies on there being no direct competition.

So far, the British media owner has not encountered a substantial threat

to its international ambitions. There are, of course, many classical

music stations in Europe, but most are either publicly owned, highbrow

in tone or regional in scope. National, commercial classical radio is a

concept rather than a reality in Europe outside the UK.

The reasons are largely historical. ’Many European countries have come

late to commercial radio,’ Don says, citing the pirate radio stations

that appeared in the UK in the 70s and which led to the emergence of

commercial radio long before the UK’s European neighbours discovered


The distribution infrastructure for radio outside the UK also plays a

significant part. In Austria, for example, Don is learning the hard way

about the implications of there being no national commercial radio

station, apart from the Government-owned ORF network.

Germany and France have classical music stations but they are regional

in their reach.

Carat International’s Hickey is prepared to give Classic FM’s overseas

ambitions the benefit of the doubt. ’There is no reason why Classic FM

should not work in other markets,’ she says. ’You can draw the analogy

with pan-European TV - it works but only when you tailor it to the local


GWR is aware of the need to customise its product. ’Certain composers

are more popular in some countries than others,’ Don says. GWR also

understands the challenges it faces. Only recently, Classic FM pulled

the plug on its operation in Sweden, where the combination of high

licence and distribution costs and the absence of a sufficiently robust

advertising base forced a retreat.

’We are taking a cautious approach,’ Don says. Nevertheless, if

classical music is the international language that he claims it to be,

the UK format stands as good a chance as any.