Media Headliner: Kippin toasts ten years of a very happy marriage

Glamour's publisher reveals the secrets of its success as the market leader celebrates a decade in the UK.

On the first morning of Glamour's launch ten years ago, a Conde Nast triumvirate of Simon Kippin (publisher), Nicholas Coleridge (managing director) and Jonathan Newhouse (chairman) made a trip to a Sainsbury's in Kensington to check how well the magazine had sold.

The pink Glamour-branded point-of-sale magazine boxes had run dry. Brilliant. The supervisor said she was too short-staffed to restock the boxes. Not so brilliant.

A moment later, the trio could be seen striding into the stock room past the tins of baked beans and loading up a shopping trolley with more copies. Returning to the checkout, Newhouse proceeded to refill the stands himself. "From that moment, we knew," Kippin says misty-eyed. The issue, which featured Kate Winslet on the cover, sold out within two weeks. The publisher had to print 80,000 extra copies to meet demand.

Upon launch, Glamour blew its competitors Cosmopolitan, Company, Marie Claire and Elle out of the water. It took the lead from all of them at UK newsstands from the word go and, 12 months on, completely overtook the monolith Cosmopolitan as the most popular paid-for women's lifestyle magazine - a spot it has held through to its tenth birthday this month.

Glamour was founded in the US in 1939 and expanded internationally in 1992 with an Italian edition. Italian Conde then resized the magazine to the revolutionary handbag format that became the brand's USP. There are now 17 international editions that reach as far as Mexico and South Africa.

So what was the secret of Glamour's success? Kippin observes that the quality monthly market had become tired: "Cosmo had been around since 1972, Marie Claire since 1988. We freshened the whole thing up."

Kippin is careful not to disparage The National Magazine Company's Cosmopolitan. He was, after all, the title's publisher for eight years until 1997, and the publisher of NatMag's Company for two before that, during his 16 years at the Hearst-owned company.

At NatMag, Kippin had also been the publisher at Good Housekeeping. He says his departure in 2001 was due to a "16-year itch". To the amazement of the industry, he decided to call it quits without a job to go to. Two weeks into unemployment, and £500 poorer for wasting it on a new gym membership he used only twice, Kippin says he got "horribly bored". A week after that, Coleridge called.

Coleridge clearly made a wise hire. Who better to appoint as the publisher of a new glossy than the man who for years nurtured its potential competitors?

Neil Ivey, the MediaCom director, says of Kippin: "He's one of the nicest people in media, with a great sense of humour. But he also has a serious, professional streak, which has made him a success as the publisher of Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Glamour, three of the biggest magazines in the country. And he's not too proud to wear a duffle coat."

What Glamour had, Kippin says, was quality and affordability. Priced at £2 today, the monthly is not far off the cost of some of the female-oriented celebrity weeklies such as Grazia and Heat, which Kippin describes sniffily as the "snack between the meal".

Advertising-wise, Glamour also clearly reaps the most desirable advertising it could hope for, considering its reach. Kippin agrees: "In terms of fashion, Glamour has advertising from D&G, Gucci, L'Oreal, Estee Lauder etc. It's high end; Cosmo can't get close to it."

For its anniversary, Kippin has secured a covermount deal any publisher in the land would salivate over - a range of ten Clinique beauty products. A covermount deal that Glamour did with Benefit make-up in July last year resulted in a spike of 772,095 in circulation.

Press buyers are invariably quick to point out that such marketing ploys skew naked brand comparisons. Despite what anyone says, as a sampling exercise, it clearly works. Kippin admits he doesn't "have the launch budget (he) once had". He needs to convert a "whole new generation of young women" to the title. And in the current climate, even Conde Nast can't stretch for Kippin to "do expensive TV commercials any more".

Particularly desirable cover-mounting in the first half of last year might explain why the title experienced a relative dip in circulation in the second half of 2010. But Kippin is not unduly concerned by the drop of nearly 5 per cent for the latest period. "Obviously, I'd prefer it to go upwards," he says. "But when you are selling half-a-million issues per month, it's quite tough to increase it by 5 per cent or 10 per cent."

In terms of brand extensions, Kippin says that for the Glamour consumer, it is the smartphone that is the big draw, not the iPad: "Let's be honest - there's not that many people with the iPad still." To mark its anniversary, the publisher is launching a range of beauty apps. As a brand spin-off, he is most proud of, something that Conde Nast has "completely refocused this year", with the editor, Jo Elvin, working closer with the dotcom team to extend its estimated 424,464 unique users a month.

Kippin and Elvin are that publishing rarity - a publisher and editor who have launched a glossy and are still heading it ten years on. As someone once told Kippin, the relationship between publisher and editor is like "an arranged marriage". Fortunately for both, the arrangement seems good. Long live the happy couple.

Age: 60 this month
Lives: With wife, Sarah, in Hampton, London
Favourite media: I'm a newspaper-holic. But it's a close run between
newspaper and radio. BBC Radio 7 for drama and comedy. The Telegraph,
the Mail and The Sunday Times
Interests outside work: Fly-fishing
Philosophy: It's got to be top quality, it's got to be A*, it can't be
anything less


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