Media: The face - an expert's view

A new font isn't enough, major editorial changes would save The Face, Paddy Adams thinks.

So The Face has had a facelift. The July 2003 issue is the first example of a new-look Face - sleeker, sexier, glossier and tighter (so it says on the press release). The question is: has the plastic surgery been a success? Has it left The Face looking like a million dollars, or looking like Leslie Ash?

To answer the question, we have to look at The Face as it was pre-op, and unfortunately it's not a pretty sight. Down to a mere 42,000 circulation (down 13 per cent year on year, and 65 per cent since 1996). Just 25,000 copies are sold in the UK so things haven't been looking good for The Face for some time. Why has it been haemorrhaging readers so dramatically?

For some time The Face hasn't known where it sits within the market it helped to create. It has been claiming to be the definitive UK style bible for most of its 23 years, but it's been a long time since this rang true.

Certainly in the 80s The Face was the authoritative voice on all things cool and youth, but in the past decade it has been eclipsed in the uber-cool stakes by the likes of Dazed & Confused and Sleazenation. Since its acquisition by Emap, four years ago, The Face has fallen uncomfortably between two camps - high-end contemporary culture and low-rent unisex lifestyle (remember Sky magazine?).

It appears the editor, Neil Stevenson, the founder of Popbitch, has attempted to address this. But what has he done exactly? Sure, there's a nifty new font to enjoy, and some lovely art direction (lots of beautifully shot full-page pictures of the usual fare - Japanese toys, retro Adidas trainers, i-Pods, dead Mexicans). But, in terms of editorial content, there doesn't appear to be a great deal of change. We're still in classic Face territory, treading the line between mainstream and underground, with articles on Mis-Teeq alongside nuggets of "essential" information such as "Guacamole is currently big news in Shoreditch". It seems Stevenson has added a little nod towards his Popbitch past (apparently Billy from Neighbours has been spotted in the Social and the 333), but up-to-the-minute celebrity gossip in a monthly? Tricky.

Without a major change in editorial direction (more youth-oriented? Willfully low-brow rather than high-brow? Popbitch with pics? Nihilist rather than celebratory?), it's difficult to see how the redesign will halt the circulation slide. Hopefully, it is a case of the first issue after the redesign easing us gently into the future of The Face, whatever that may be, because without more radical change, its future still looks rather bleak.

Publisher: Emap Consumer Media

Frequency: Monthly

Cover price: £3

Circulation: 42,242

Full-page colour ad rate: £6,350

Advertisers include: Levi's (supplement sponsor), Apple, Miss Sixty,

Champion, Samsung, Diesel

Adams account manager for brands including Apple and Absolut at Manning Gottlieb OMD, reads Time Out and Vice for his cutting-edge views.