G&J says a lack of size and clout forced its exit from the UK after
14 years. Apparently, it was unable to build a sufficiently large
portfolio to achieve the economies of scale required to take on
publishing heavyweights such as IPC.
Some might consider this a lame excuse coming from a company backed by
the huge Bertelsmann empire. But if G&J really isn’t big enough to hack
it in mainstream consumer publishing, then what chance is there for
minnows such as Parkhill and Cabal?
Doubts about the future of Eve Pollard’s Parkhill resurfaced last week
with the news that Aura might not appear in September. It seems the
title is struggling to drum up enough advertising.
As for Cabal, after a torrid time - during which many felt it would not
survive - it has regrouped and is about to launch men’s magazine
Delayed from last spring, when it couldn’t find space on the newsstands,
Cabal is hoping Mondo can add critical mass to a portfolio that, like
Parkhill’s, comprises just two titles.
Next month also brings John Brown’s entry into the increasingly crowded
world of women’s magazines with Bare. Unlike BBC Worldwide’s Eve, which
will announce its arrival with a pounds 2 million marketing fanfare,
Bare hopes to get its message across using PR and some point-of-sale
In the dog-eat-dog world of glossy magazines, it might seem that all the
odds are stacked in favour of the big boys.
Apart from providing lower unit costs of production, large portfolios
can be leveraged to secure better positioning at retail outlets and to
generate more advertising revenue from group deals. Merely being taken
seriously by media agencies is an issue for smaller publishers.
Charmian Denison, who recently moved from Cabal to become advertisement
manager on IPC’s youth titles, recalls: ’At Cabal, just getting through
the door to see agencies was tricky. You had to draw on personal favours
from old contacts.’
Conversely, Mark Lonergan, who moved from IPC to become Cabal group ad
director, argues that his sales team is closer to editorial and has more
knowledge of the magazine brands.
’At IPC it was 18 months before I met an editor and decision making took
for ever,’ he says.
Sally O’Sullivan, chief executive of Cabal, concedes that small
publishers need to be cheaper and faster to market. And unlike bigger
publishers, she knows she can’t afford to make too many mistakes.
It is perhaps this ability to make errors and absorb losses - as well as
being able to spend their way out of trouble - that is the big players’
O’Sullivan laments: ’Emap spent pounds 10 million on Heat, which sells
60,000, and pounds 7 million on Red. The latter sells only 20,000 more
than our Real Homes, which cost a total of pounds 500,000. But Heat and
Red are not called failures.’