MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE - Will NatMags cope with the pace of a weeklies market?

Apparently, there was a time when the ideal woman was a mother in the nursery, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. Sounds far too stretching to me (know your niche, I say), but it seems that salvation is at hand for those of us who haven’t quite mastered multi-tasking. According to The Guardian this week, housework is the new sex.

Apparently, there was a time when the ideal woman was a mother in

the nursery, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. Sounds

far too stretching to me (know your niche, I say), but it seems that

salvation is at hand for those of us who haven’t quite mastered

multi-tasking. According to The Guardian this week, housework is the new

sex.



Which (apart from conjuring up straplines such as ’Getting Frisky with a

Feather Duster’ and ’Crochet Your Own Orgasm’) is great news for all

those women’s magazines that have been struggling for the past few years

to persuade us that knitting your own swimsuit is a viable alternative

to the latest Gucci two-piece or that making pasta dough is a

life-enhancing experience.



It makes the Gruner & Jahr portfolio of magazines bought by the National

Magazine Company last week look even more attractive: imagine, it might

become cool to be seen reading Prima, Best, Your Home and Prima

Baby.



Fashionable or not, G&J has a strong and well-established portfolio.



Not on a whim does NatMags turn aggressive entrepreneurial deal-maker,

with its managing director, Terry Mansfield, and his deputy, Duncan

Edwards, apparently leaping on to planes in order to steal the G&J

jewels from under the nose of arch-rival IPC, which thought its G&J

purchase was a done deal.



All adrenaline-pumping stuff, and great fun. But now it’s over, NatMags

has to work out what to do with its booty. For a publishing company

that’s just acquired some new titles, that doesn’t sound like an onerous

task.



But the G&J portfolio takes NatMags outside its glossy comfort zone and

into the grubby, cut-throat world of women’s weeklies - not simply a new

publishing market (and one where cross-selling of advertising will be

tricky when you’ve only got the one weekly title) but a new publishing

culture. Best may be a reasonable platform from which to launch NatMags

into the weekly publishing bearpit, but that’s territory that the

defeated IPC is master of (and as far as IPC’s concerned, there can

surely be no better motivator than pounds 550 million of debt to sharpen

the appetite for competition).



NatMags has shown it can be fleet of foot, and that the value placed by

its parent company, Hearst, on Mansfield and his UK team is such that

hundreds of millions of pounds can be made available to them at

relatively short notice. But there’s still much to prove.



Aside from the issue of adapting a glossy monthly magazine culture to

accommodate the sweaty pace of weekly publishing, the G&J titles need

some real sprucing up. The portfolio has lost some sparkle over recent

years and suffered circulation slides in the latest round of sales

figures.



Housework may be the new sex, but NatMags has much spring-cleaning to do

before its new prize can sit comfortably within the NatMags home.





claire.beale@haynet.com



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