MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; IPC’s rejuvenation is apparent in the sure touch of Now

Ah well, you can’t be right all the time. IPC’s new Now magazine, on the streets last Friday, would have us believe that Madonna was still waiting to give birth and Jerry was still happily married to Mick. These are the sorts of mistakes no magazine likes to make but, if they are the worst in the launch issue, then the Now team can give themselves a big pat on the back.

Ah well, you can’t be right all the time. IPC’s new Now magazine, on the

streets last Friday, would have us believe that Madonna was still

waiting to give birth and Jerry was still happily married to Mick. These

are the sorts of mistakes no magazine likes to make but, if they are the

worst in the launch issue, then the Now team can give themselves a big

pat on the back.



IPC describes Now as a celebrity-led classic, an attempt to move the

sector a little bit upmarket. A few years ago, Jane Reed, now corporate

affairs director at News International but once a weeklies editor,

memorably characterised the weeklies as the ‘knit-your-own-marmalade’

sector. At the time, given the plethora of practical homemaking tips

these magazines contained, it summed up their ethos with biting

accuracy. Now certainly avoids that type of categorisation.



Although this kind of magazine continues to sell by the truckload, the

trend is remorselessly down. In truth, they are no longer where the

action is, which is not surprising given the way society has changed:

more women work, convenience foods are a luxury item no more and high

street fashions are affordable and, well, fashionable. The success of

Hello!, Here!, Eva and Chat reflects the way publishers have cottoned on

to these changes (as well as the accuracy of Andy Warhol’s observation

about fame).



Now I have to admit that the distinctions between the magazines in this

sector are far too subtle for me, so apart from observing that Now seems

to meet its brief, let’s talk about IPC instead.



Several points are worth making. First, this is the action of a

confident company. Whatever noises its parent, Reed Elsevier, makes

about getting into higher margin electronic and business publishing -

and it has been making a lot to the City - it clearly believes there is

plenty of mileage left in good old-fashioned consumer titles. More than

that, it is prepared to back IPC with serious money even if that means

playing, as it did earlier this summer, aggressive and risky games with

price cuts. If you’re not sure what I mean, ask yourselves this: would

the IPC of five years ago have had the balls (or the backing of Reed) to

have done that? Would anybody today refer to IPC as the Ministry of

Magazines? I doubt it.



It also says something about the company that it managed to keep pretty

much all the details secret until a week before launch which, given the

number of people in the know, is no mean achievement. That too suggests

a unity of purpose at middle-management level hitherto unseen. Some of

the new-found self-belief can undoubtedly be put down to Loaded, which

seems to have imbued large swathes of the company with a renewed sense

of adventure.



Mind you, one thing makes me nervous. Unlike its rivals, Now has

forsworn the exclamation mark in its title. Let’s hope it’s not a mark

of over-confidence.



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