For all its great brands - and there are few better than
Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping - there have been times over the past
12 months when the National Magazine Company has appeared less dynamic
than its rivals.
Emap and IPC have provided hundreds of column inches for the media and
business pages with their launches, restructures and management changes,
while some of the smaller players such as John Brown and Future seem to
add to their magazine portfolios on almost a weekly basis. In
comparison, Terry Mansfield’s Broadwick Street massive has been really
Of course, this is just a question of perception and the whims of
journalists, but it has clearly bugged Mansfield’s successor-in-waiting
At this week’s press conference he asked - almost rhetorically - why
NatMags’ market leaders got less coverage than some of their smaller
The answer, I suppose, is that ’Market leader doing solid job and still
making lots of money’, is not a gripping news story.
But any notions that NatMags is somehow less aggressive than other
players have been blown away in the past fortnight. First there was the
creation of the Affluent Magazines group, then there was the launch of
uk.women.com, and now the G& J acquisition.
The G&J purchase may be Mansfield’s last major deal as NatMags managing
director: it is also one of the most audacious and important of his long
Rumours about G&J’s sale have been circulating for some time, but there
didn’t seem to be any movement on that front until a fortnight ago when
The Guardian broke the story ’IPC to buy G&J’. Perhaps it didn’t get the
story exactly right, although sources have confirmed that the two were
talking and it is hard, therefore, to avoid the impression that G&J was
snatched from under IPC’s nose.
Could this deal - clearly brokered at breakneck speed - have been
achieved by most publishing companies? Absolutely not. It needed not
only the Hearst Corporation’s millions and willingness to spend them,
but also the diplomacy and reputation provided by Mansfield himself.
How many UK bosses could go to their US headquarters and get a deal like
this signed off in a weekend? And who else could portray his team as the
white knights rescuing the damsel from the clutches of the dark forces,
without ever saying those words?
However, gentlemanly white knights have nothing to do with it - NatMags
reminded us last week that it is part of a huge aggressive corporation
with deep pockets. It had better be, because the weeklies market is a
cut-throat place to be.