Media Headliner: Goodchild faces his toughest challenge with launch of Cut

The new managing director of Bauer has a good launch pedigree.

Gratuitous female nudity and an explosive PR frenzy are the standard ingredients for a men's magazine launch in the UK. Just witness the entrance into the market of Nuts and Zoo earlier this year.

But two weeks ago, a third contender in this new market arrived with a rather underwhelming launch campaign, intended to trumpet its slightly different editorial proposition.

In a deliberate attempt to target a new audience, H Bauer's Cut has adopted a "less boobs, more blurb" approach to attracting a young male audience.

Described as a version of Dennis Publishing's The Week for lads, it provides a round-up of the week's celebrity and global news with a lower dose of the traditional pictures that usually adorn the pages of men's titles.

The publisher believes this proposition will entice slightly older readers than its rivals and grow the market by encouraging men who don't take newspapers or magazines to develop a reading habit.

Some are sceptical about this bold strategy and there are questions being asked about whether it will attract advertising, as its subcontracted sales operation, The Publishing Consultancy (TPC), didn't even present it to media agencies ahead of its launch on 12 August.

This is in stark contrast to Emap, which involved press directors in the editorial development of Zoo from early in the process and demonstrates that ad sales are not at the top of Bauer's agenda.

The launch is a massive early test for David Goodchild, the new managing director of Bauer, who took over from the retiring Alan Urry in June.

Goodchild, 34, is excited about Cut's prospects. He says: "We believe that we are offering a real point of difference to the reader with this magazine, and an opportunity to introduce new male readers into the weekly market. Growing the market should be a benefit to everyone."

Bauer has no shareholders to answer to and therefore no immediate need for sales figures because its main focus is on generating newsstand revenues.

Its continuing commitment to core values is reflected in the promotion of Goodchild, a former publishing director of Take a Break and Bella, who then launched the successful listings title TV Choice in 1999. He has been with the company since he graduated, starting off in sales and marketing before landing the unglamorous, but vital, role of head of distribution, and appears to have been groomed to continue the Bauer tradition of producing inelegant, yet highly profitable, titles.

However, Bauer insiders say that Goodchild will inject more openness and dynamism into Bauer's UK operations. He certainly hasn't messed around in his first couple of months - selling its underachieving women's title Real to Essential Publishing to focus resources on Cut.

The publisher has a huge task ahead if it is to crack the men's weekly market, not least because of the headstart its rivals have. According to Simon Young, the managing director of TPC, Bauer's policy is to develop the editorial product and chase a large audience. He argues that advertising revenue will automatically follow.

Its first four editions have been filled by clients from its own media agency Starcom Mediavest and the only ad in its first issue was from Kia, by the creative agency Mustoes.

Bauer's policy has proved successful in the past. Take a Break is the UK's biggest selling women's weekly, shifting 1,208,473 copies. TV Choice also sells more than a million copies a week. Even so, there are reservations among agencies, who are unsure whether the market Bauer is chasing will buy the magazine. "It's the toughest market to crack," one press director says. "They won't do it with that product."

There are no definite indications of how successful Cut's first two issues have been. It has a print run of 700,000, and while reports claimed it had only sold 90,000 copies, even Bauer doesn't know what the truth is.

This is because its launch campaign, which involves TV ads on cable and satellite, also includes a deal with newsagents that sees them pocket the discounted 50p cover price on the first two issues.

While this should encourage retailers to give the title standout positions on the newsstands, the downside is that there is no electronic point of sale data available.

So it seems Bauer is taking a huge gamble on being able to crack a market with a magazine that does everything to justify its low coverprice. Goodchild has pulled this trick off before, but there could be a few sleepless nights ahead.

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