For all its reputation for world-class bitchiness, the glossy
magazine industry can also show a refreshing generosity of spirit from
time to time. I’m referring to IPC’s launch last week of Nova (relaunch
would be a better word but I suspect most of the target market are
oblivious to that fact) in which you sense - in what makes a pleasant
change - the industry willing it to succeed.
Now IPC shouldn’t kid itself that this is based on much more than a
feeling of nostalgia - something which it is milking for all it’s worth.
For Nova is the magazine that got away - a critical success and an
influence way beyond its actual achievements, but a commercial failure.
But, as failures go, it was noble and glorious, so much so that you can
still find people who claim to have worked on Nova even if they patently
could not have done.
Clearly for IPC, Nova is a title of huge significance - and not just
commercially. Things have not gone completely smoothly since the buyout
from Reed, and the lustre that a successful title such as Nova can bring
would do wonders for the company’s morale, not to mention its ability to
recruit (and hang on to) staff as well as give advertisers a warm
So much for the touchy-feely stuff, none of which will matter unless
Nova succeeds second time around. The underlying proposition behind the
magazine is that there is a major demographic and socio-economic shift
going on in the women’s market. We’re familiar with the descriptives:
older, independent, more affluent, career-minded and so on. In magazine
terms, this means they want something more intelligent than the usual
sex/relationships/fashion/cellulite/horoscopes formula - exactly what
Nova offered the first time round, except it was 25 years too early.
So is it the right time now? It’s an important question - and not just
for other publishers with upcoming launches looking to tap into a
similar advertising market, but for all media owners. Add up their
numbers, their purchasing power and their status as opinion formers, and
it’s probably no exaggeration to say this is a critical market. But,
ultimately, success will depend on widening the pool of women’s magazine
advertisers and wooing some of the brands that habitually use TV.
So how does the first issue stack up? There’s certainly something
appealing about it. The model on the front cover combines 60s retro
(think the Kings Road in ’the summer of love’) with contemporary chic.
There aren’t even any cover lines, which I’m all in favour of but others
will call brave.
The look inside is cool and understated with lots of white space and
little of the visual or verbal clutter that many women’s magazines
regard as de rigueur. The attempt to find and strike the right attitude
seems a bit self-conscious to me, but then I’m hardly in the target
market. At pounds 1.50, Nova should get plenty of trial.
If there is one thing IPC has to watch, it’s the management of
The last magazine which so deliberately set out its stall in a ’we’re
really different’ way was Frank. Unless it is careful, overplaying the
nostalgia card may also prove to be a rod for IPC’s back.