MEDIA HEADLINER: Marie Claire's editor looks to put the fun back into the title - Marie O'Riordan is ready for a fight in the women's sector

'I think I do warm quite well,' Marie O'Riordan, the latest editor

of Marie Claire, who assumed the role amid dramatic circumstances last

week, says. She's right, she does.

Media buyers have fond memories of O'Riordan doing warm extremely well

during her two-year stint as editor of Emap's fashion bible Elle. Ad

revenue benefited from her popularity and accessibility during her Elle

reign, and O'Riordan remains one of the most familiar editorial faces to

those on the agency side of the business, with her most recent stint as

the publishing director of Emap Elan's youth titles. 'She's a good

people person and that comes across in everything she does,' Elaine

Foran, O'Riordan's publisher at Elle, says. 'She's a great team builder

and a generous editor who encourages those around her.'

It is the editorial side of her people skills that will be first called

to the fore as O'Riordan prepares to step into the breach at Marie

Claire. She replaces Liz Jones, whose sudden exit from IPC Media was

announced last Tuesday evening. IPC insists Jones chose to leave, but

rumours persist that editorial staff staged a protest against a forced

departure last Friday. It seems that the publisher had demanded action

following an 11 per cent slump in circulation in the latest ABCs.

Whatever the circumstances, O'Riordan knows that calming the situation

will be her first priority at the magazine.

'I've heard very good things about the team from other people,' she


'I'm going to be very clear about what I want and communicate it in the

next couple of weeks and then it's up to them whether they like it and

want to be supportive. But I know when an editor leaves it does prompt a

certain amount of self-reflection and I imagine that's what they're

doing now. I'm really up for people to stay if they're up for the fight

because it is a fight in the women's glossy market.'

Marie Claire's combination of fashion, fun and features is no longer a

unique calling card in the women's lifestyle sector. BBC Worldwide's Eve

and Emap's Red have both aimed for a similar combination while this

year's launches - Glamour, InStyle and Real - seem likely to mop up

different parts of Marie Claire's target readership. The extra

competition has come at a particularly inopportune moment, with many

feeling the magazine has lost its edge over the past year, becoming too

dull and worthy for some and too lightweight for others. When

circulation slid to just above the 400,000 mark earlier this year, such

misgivings were confirmed.

It's no surprise, then, that the decision to hire O'Riordan, who took up

the job only ten days after being first approached, has been greeted

warmly among media agencies who call, almost unanimously, for a

reinvigoration of the title. 'Editing is a very personal job,' O'Riordan

says. 'And I want to put my own stamp on it but I still believe in the

vision Glenda Bailey had when she launched. It will be intelligent but

that doesn't exclude fun and glamour. I feel as Glenda did that even now

women are too often categorised as either intelligent and dull,

fun-loving or purely interested in sex.'

However, O'Riordan recognises Marie Claire needs an injection of that

elusive magazine quality - confidence. 'I think the battle starts with

the editor,' she says. 'You must be unbelievably clear about what you

want to achieve and unbelievably articulate in communicating that to the


That communication will initially involve a move away from the

campaigning tone that has proved difficult for some to swallow in the

past. 'That bit really has to be addressed,' she says. 'This reader is

too intelligent to be campaigned to. She wants to make up her own


However, that doesn't mean no intelligent writing. I want Marie Claire

to be a base for great writing. I just don't want it to be labelled


To O'Riordan, quality writing can extend to almost any area. She lists

'relationships, emotions, celebrities and gossip' as valid subject

matter for Marie Claire, adding: 'I'm very good at doing features on

ordinary women that make you empathise and I want to make sure that's

there. I don't think I'll be doing anything that has never been done

before, but it's the mix and the tone that will be unique - very modern

and now.'

This may not sound like the most groundbreaking manifesto for reviving a

title, but a serious push in writing quality has worked wonders for

O'Riordan before. At Elle, her decision to introduce broader features

and a regular photo essay steadied a title that had dropped below the

200,000 mark, building its circulation by almost 10 per cent during her

two years in charge. If IPC is serious about backing Marie Claire with

some significant above-the-line spend, then it needs a quality product

to hook readers in when they do sample it. O'Riordan is firmly focused

on providing one.


1987: Communications, sub-editor

1989: More!, production editor

1992: More!, deputy editor

1993: More!, editor

1996: Elle, editor

1998: Emap Elan youth, group publishing director

2001: Marie Claire, editor.


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