MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: NatMags switches publishers line-up to boost branding

You know what it’s like when you’ve been doing your job for a while.

You know what it’s like when you’ve been doing your job for a


Your chair begins to mould itself to your buttocks, you can count the

number of lunches at your desk from the crumbs lurking between the keys

of your keyboard, and you begin to relax a little - perhaps you don’t

try quite as hard as you did when impressing the boss was your top


So while it’s surprising to see the National Magazine Company

introducing a massive reorganisation of its publishing team, perhaps

it’s not unreasonable.

After all, publishers traditionally change jobs less frequently than

their counterparts in other commercial sectors.

But last week, NatMags picked seven publishers from its top magazines,

shuffled the pack and, as it appears to the casual observer, let the

cards drop as they may.

So, Jamie Bill, previously the publisher of the upmarket glossy, Harpers

& Queen, moves on to the rather more, erm, ordinary folk’s bright and

breezy House Beautiful, swapping places with Austyn Hallworth.

Chris Hughes waves goodbye to the sort of job many men would salivate

over - publisher of Esquire - to join Country Living. Kevin Adams, on

the other hand, exchanges flock wallpaper and dried flowers (Country

Living) for fast cars and loose women (Esquire).

At least Jan Adcock (from Company to the parenting group), Nadia Dawson

(from She to Company) and Vivien Cotterill (from parenting mags to She)

stick with women.

Try to imagine such a radical reshuffle in your own company, and the

entire manoeuvre appears very provocative. Set aside, for a moment, the

question of how keen the publishers themselves are on their new roles

(not all of them are said to be sporting broad smiles). Surely it’s

dangerous to disregard the empathy they have developed, not only with

their own teams, but also with their magazine and its readers. Moving

two around might cause disruption, but seven could send the whole

company into a spin.

Maybe. But if we were talking about a brand manager moving from

marketing baked beans to marketing toothpaste, you wouldn’t worry about

that acquired knowledge of tinned packaging rather than cardboard. It’s

the commercial nous that counts.

And that, surely, is the point behind the NatMags manoeuvre. The best

magazines are now brands in the true sense of the word. In many ways,

NatMags has been at the forefront of magazine brand extensions, taking

names like Cosmopolitan into merchandising, music, fashion accessories

and so on. And it’s the responsibility of the individual publishers to

ensure that real value is squeezed out of a title without denting the

original magazine brand.

Perhaps the latest reshuffle is a signal that NatMags hasn’t got it

quite right yet, but it does underline the new commercial edge invading

the traditionally cosy world of magazine publishing.