CONSUMER MAGAZINES: The Minds Behind the Masthead

Behind every successful magazine there is a publisher/editor team that must work closely if the title is to thrive. Pippa Considine takes a look at two of these 'arranged marriages'


If the relationship between publishers and editors at Conde Nast is, as Glamour's publishing director, Simon Kippin, says, "like an arranged marriage" then the chemistry between Kippin and the editor, Jo Elvin, doesn't seem obvious. However, in the world of glossy magazines, this is one partnership that has hit a high. Glamour's rise to the top of the women's lifestyle pile has been meteoric, and its latest ABC (July to December 2002) was an impressive 537,474, up 23 per cent year on year.

Naturally it's the publisher's job to make the title cut the commercial mustard but Kippin insists: "It's Jo's job as well as mine to make money." He relies on Elvin's inspiration to make a magazine that sells. He also expects her to keep the financial imperatives somewhere in her head. Elvin has her managing editor to watch the budget, but she can also turn her hand to coming up with ideas for generating revenue through the editorial.

Schmoozing the advertisers is another of Kippin's major responsibilities, but Elvin also pulls her weight. "They want to see the editor and hear her vision, especially on a launch," Kippin says. They also share the PR. He takes trade press and commercial issues, she's a dab hand at consumer interviews - her stint at Sugar amid teenage magazine controversy gave her a taste for it. They both do Milan and drinks at Downing Street. Profile is important. Both respect the renowned publisher/editor teams on other titles. "A lot of magazines miss that profile," Elvin says. "People aren't in the job long enough to be seen as the face of the magazine."

But do she and Kippin trust each other enough to stay the course? "A creative tension between publisher and editor is always necessary," Kippin says, but he claims they've never had a big row. Elvin has mellowed over the years of exchanges with publishers: "I used to rage against the machine.

As I got older and wiser I realised the benefits of the publisher/editor relationship." When prompted, Kippin describes Elvin as "a purist - she's demanding, someone for whom just good enough isn't good enough". Elvin on Kippin: "Before I met him people said to me you're lucky - he's so easy to get along with. He can be tough when he needs to be, but he's very personable."

But would they want to be doing the other person's job? "Who knows?" Elvin says. "When I'm too old to edit Glamour, becoming a publisher might be an option. But I love editorial." Kippin makes his position clear: "I'm a frustrated journalist. I'd love to have a byline." But it's also clear that the man who describes his job as "like conducting an orchestra" has a very shrewd idea of his own mastery.


As arranged marriages go, Good Housekeeping's editor, Lindsay Nicholson, and the group publishing director, Chris Hughes, might seem like a more conventional coupling than the editor/publisher team on Glamour. "Chris and I say that Good Housekeeping is like a publishing company of which he is the managing director and I am the creative director," Nicholson says. Hughes has another analogy: "If this was another medium then I would be the producer and the editor would be the director." Clearly, Nicholson is no-one's puppet, but she does say that the tradition and heritage of this grande dame of magazines puts both of them in their place. "We are both custodians of the brand. If we were to differ, then the fact that the brand is bigger and older than either of us tends to put things into perspective."

Although she might disagree with his ideas of Telegraph-inspired interview subjects, there's no lack of consultation between the two. Nicholson attends weekly commercial status meetings, and monthly get-togethers (which she describes as "love-ins") and only a thin wall separates their two offices so, in effect, they "meet" several times a day. "It sounds like we're meeting mad," Nicholson says, "but Good Housekeeping is a juggernaut which needs control."

The magazine grows bigger all the time with new brand extensions and, although the commercial side is technically Hughes' responsibility, Nicholson keeps a close eye on any new developments. As Hughes says: "The need for integrity is so absolute. We have to be very careful. If we came up with a duff product with our logo it would have a ripple effect."

Nicholson maintains that she rarely comes to blows with her publisher, but she's made it clear to Hughes that if he takes an ad which offends her readers, he can answer the letters of complaint. When it comes to the job of brand ambassador, Nicholson protests that she lets Hughes do the presenting. At reader events they are a double act. It certainly sounds like they complement rather than compete. Hughes praises Nicholson's openness to suggestions coming out of reader research. Meanwhile, Nicholson maintains that Hughes backs some of her riskier editorial plots.

What about any ambitions that either of them might have on the other's patch? Hughes knows not to meddle: "I have no editorial skills. If everyone on the editorial team was stuck on the Underground and the other half had flu, then I might write something." Nicholson, however, does entertain the thought of becoming a managing director. "I'm not sure I could cope without asking people to re-write coverlines. But if I got bored I might consider it," she says.


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