As the magazine fraternity emerges from its collective hangover
this morning, it’s time for a closer look at the winners of the latest
Periodical Publishers Association awards, held at the Grosvenor House
While it’s impossible to prescribe a formula for success from the
victors - among them Men’s Health (best consumer magazine), Prima
(consumer editor of the year for Lindsay Nicholson), Building (business
magazine of the year) and room (contract magazine of the year for Ikea)
- intelligent editorial and high production values clearly stand
The fact that such continued quality comes at a time of real change for
the industry makes the achievements even more significant. A lot’s
happened in the world of magazine publishing since the last PPA
conference and awards a year ago (see page 8). So much so, in fact, that
it’s tempting to proclaim that the industry is cocked ready to spring
into the new millennium.
Tempting, perhaps, but premature. The glitzy PPA shindig provides a
forum for publishers to exorcise their business frustrations before the
ritual back-slapping awards. And the frustrations aired this year
suggest that, for all the talk of brand development and embracing new
technologies, the industry is still struggling with the opportunities of
today, let alone tomorrow.
Having heard so much about the potential to expand magazine brands into
TV, it’s sobering to find the reality comes with more caveats than the
masthead programming champions anticipated.
As for electronic media, while opportunities exist for taking familiar
magazine brands into internet publishing, the publishers themselves have
yet to master the online medium. For those who fail to embrace it, the
opportunity could become a threat.
Customer magazines, one of publishing’s most burgeoning sectors, are
dismissed by one consumer publisher as a worthless drain on readers’
leisure time, the magazine equivalent of junk food.
Meanwhile, one of the building blocks of the magazine industry, the
National Readership Surveys, which provides research for both newspapers
and magazines, is being torn by a split over its future between the two
sides of the industry.
But all of this public tussling is par for the course at industry
conferences and a sign of a mature business. The truth is that magazine
companies are actually getting better at working together on issues that
affect them all, such as the increasing pressure on consumer leisure
time from other media. Yes, there are conflicting interests to
accommodate but there are also real advantages to be had from
co-operation in areas of common concern.
And after the arguments have raged, the debates aired and work begun on
tackling the problems, there are the awards. They underline that,
despite it all, the UK publishing industry still produces some bloody
Stefano Hatfield is away.