Media Perspective: Brits in Manhattan show strength of UK publishing market

At times this week, London has resembled an outpost of the US, what with all the Obama inauguration celebrations going on. Yet, for some in the media industry at least, the appeal of permanently adopting American ways seems to have waned.

Time was when every US media agency worth its salt was hiring Brits to head US operations or global endeavours from a New York HQ. While this is still in evidence (Nick Brien and Richard Beaven at Interpublic's Mediabrands and Initiative are obvious examples), we've seen the likes of Media-Com's Steve Allan and Mediaedge:cia's Charles Courtier relocate global network jobs from New York to London.

Yet it would still be true to say that the agency world has an almost constant flow of personnel and information across the Atlantic. Less so the more parochial broadcast industries, but the US take on the printed word has always held a fascination for British writers and publishers - from PG Wodehouse to Christopher Hitchens via Tina Brown and her husband Sir Harold Evans - many have moved to the States to pursue a career in magazines or newspapers.

Events of recent weeks have emphasised this long-term trend. Back in December, IPC Media's chief executive, Sylvia Auton, relocated to New York to focus on her role as the executive vice-president of Time Inc, the US magazine division of IPC's parent Time Warner. Then, last week, IPC's rival, The National Magazine Company, announced that its chief executive, Duncan Edwards, was upping sticks to New York, where he will be president and chief executive of Hearst Magazines International.

While Edwards will focus on Hearst's international magazine interests rather than its US business, it nonetheless seems significant that his and Auton's services are required in New York. This is clearly good succession management from both Time Warner and Hearst in handing the pair new challenges, but also says much for their achievements in the UK and illustrates that the UK magazine market is a more than competitive breeding ground for top global talent. Both Auton and Edwards have achieved much at their respective companies, not least, to use Auton's words, in transforming them "from being a world-class magazine publisher to a world-class content creator".

The UK has been a hotbed of innovation and frenetic launching, not just on the newsstand, but online and on broadcast media platforms too. The US is clearly at the cutting edge of many things but UK magazine executives have hot-housed their skills in a cut-throat market. So while there will be talk of doom and gloom in the magazine market to match that surrounding other media, especially when the next round of ABC data is published next month, let's not forget some of the achievements of the past few years.

Topics