’I would love to work for me,’ declares Gill Hudson, new-product
development manager for BBC Worldwide’s lifestyle division and editor of
its new women’s glossy, Project Urma.
This is said without a hint of irony but, after just five minutes in her
bubbly company, you can see she has a point. Add to this her unusual
work ethic - ’a focus on hedonism’ - and there’s no argument.
Hudson explains: ’You can get things out of people by scaring them, but
you get more if you have fun. I have found that the best features
meetings are when you have a laugh - that’s when you come up with the
And she has come up with some bonkers stuff in her time, particularly
during her editorship on Company: ’I was responsible for bringing sex
back into magazines. At the time, Aids was big and it was all the awful
tombstone stuff, so everyone was sticking to nice relationship
So Hudson invited readers into her home to reveal all for her ’loose
talk’ features. ’My God, it was dirty stuff,’ she says.
Then came Maxim where she pushed the boundaries further by putting tits
on the cover - the first mainstream men’s magazine to do so, she
It’s certainly a colourful background and one seemingly at odds with the
more conservative BBC.
So can we expect Auntie to exchange her bloomers for something a little
sexier? ’The BBC has given me much more freedom than I ever
Because people have grown up with the BBC, like the NHS, everyone has an
opinion on it, but that opinion is out of date. The BBC can be funky,’
Details concerning the launch in the autumn are scarce. It will be a
lifestyle magazine for ABC1 women and, according to Hudson, it will be
’ageless’. The usual PR blurb about it being ’unlike anything out there’
is the only other statement the BBC will give.
Hudson drops one other snippet. ’The stuff I’m working on will make the
BBC be seen in a very different light. It will obviously have a BBC
element to it but it will not be what you expect. No-one will be able to
accuse the BBC of not having balls or vision after this. It’s about
moving the whole genre ahead,’ she claims.
But how do you sell an ’ageless’ proposition to advertisers? ’We have a
hook,’ she smiles knowingly. In a vain attempt to glean more, I ask
Hudson whose idea it was and where it came from.
’My head,’ she answers. ’We have done research but for good magazines to
stand a chance, they have to have a personality behind them. If you
depend on a focus group, you shouldn’t be an editor in the first
Hudson denies that her sex-heavy editorial background will drive a new
ladette magazine and is quite affronted by the question: ’I’m more
flexible than that.’ She does, however, admit to being bored with the
existing women’s market, which hopefully means the BBC won’t be adding
to the existing superficial and sex-saturated stuff.
Whatever the format, the move is a risky one for the BBC. Its last
venture in this sector, Family Life, lasted just ten issues. And, as the
ABCs show this week, the women’s market is as ferocious as ever. Isn’t
the BBC being a little ambitious?
’If you’re looking for an easy ride, you shouldn’t be in the media,’
Hudson says. ’Of course it’s going to be tough, but when I joined Maxim
there were six people and no heritage. I was a 40-year-old woman trying
to tap into the minds of 26-year-old males who would shag anything with
a pulse - so I know tough.’
Her first job in journalism was as the editor of the Women’s Institute
magazine, Home and Country - a job she accepted with no experience at
the age of 25. ’You have to be like a managing director now. You’re
expected to be a brilliant manager, sales person, writer, oh, and then
they say: can you launch a website while you’re at it?’
But the Beeb obviously has confidence in Hudson, putting her in charge
of a raft of new launches throughout the year. Her lips are firmly
sealed on what these may be, and unfortunately she will not be persuaded
Despite her success, Hudson remains down-to-earth and looks at home in
the BBC canteen with her mug of Typhoo. A single mum, Hudson’s spare
time is dedicated to her six-year-old daughter, rather than nights out
at the Groucho.
’I’m a magazine editor and I live in London, but I’m not completely Ab
Fab yet - though I live in hope,’ she says.
THE HUDSON FILE
Home and Country (Women’s Institute), editor
Cook’s Weekly, editor
Company, deputy editor, rising to editor
New Woman, editor
Dennis Publishing, head of development
BBC Worldwide, new-product development manager
Project Urma, editor