Magazine Journalism


Tim Holmes & Liz Nice

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  • Journalism Studies: Key Texts

    Journalism Studies: Key Texts is a new textbook series that systematically maps the crucial connections between theory and practice in journalism. It provides the solid grounding students need in the history, theory, ‘real-life’ practice and future directions of journalism, while further engaging them in key critical debates. Drawing directly from how journalism is studied and understood today, the series is a full-service resource for students and lecturers alike.

    Series Editors: Martin Conboy, David Finkelstein, Bob Franklin

    Published Titles

    • Radio Journalism Guy Starkey and Andrew Crissell
    • Alternative Journalism Chris Atton and James Hamilton
    • Newspaper Journalism Peter Cole and Tony Harcup
    • International Journalism Kevin Williams


    View Copyright Page


    The authors would like to thank the many magazine professionals who gave so generously of their time to share their experience and perceptions of the multifarious universe that is the periodicals industry, and to students, past and present, whose searching questions caused us to look very carefully at what we all too often take for granted.

  • Appendix 1

    The following is a more detailed survey of magazine companies and particular titles selected for the impact they have had beyond their immediate field.

    Key Magazine Publishers of the Late 20th Century

    IPC, the UK's largest magazine publishing company, was formed in 1968 following the amalgamation of Associated-Iliffe Press, George Newnes and Odhams Press, the UK's three most important magazine publishing houses of the time. IPC Magazines Ltd was part of the International Publishing Corporation Ltd, which also owned the Daily Mirror, People and Sun newspapers. The Corporation was bought by Reed Group – which had its roots in paper manufacture – in 1970 and incorporated into Reed International.

    In 1998 IPC Magazines was sold to venture capitalist outfit Cinven for £860m and in 2001 sold again to AOL Time Warner for £1.15bn. IPC now sits within Time Inc's portfolio of assets.

    Although IPC has a reputation for playing safe and its magazines have to be mass circulation to justify their existence within such a large corporate body, the simple fact that it has maintained its position at the top of the tree for so long suggests that it is, collectively, smart enough to combine keeping up with trends with the ability to satisfy large and disparate groups of established readers.

    EMAP (Bauer)

    EMAP (now Bauer Media) was formed as a regional newspaper publisher (East Midlands Allied Press) in 1947, based in Peterborough. In 1953 it launched Angling Times as a tabloid news magazine, followed by Garden News and Motor Cycle News in 1956. Fishing, gardening and motorcycling provided the basis for a stable of successful consumer magazines but things really took off with the launch of Smash Hits (1978) and Just Seventeen. Corporately, Emap expanded into business publishing, exhibitions, distribution, radio and television channels. Overseas ventures included operations in France, licensing titles to foreign publishers and an ill fated, and ultimately fatal, excursion into the US market with the acquisition of Petersen Publishing for £1bn (1998) – offloaded for £366m three years later.

    Business continued apparently as normal until 2008, when the company suddenly seemed to run out of steam. The consumer magazine and radio arms were sold to Heinrich Bauer Verlag KG for £714.3m and £422m respectively. The business publishing side was later sold to a joint company formed by Apax Venture Partners and the Guardian Media Group.


    Founded in 1957 by Michael Heseltine and Clive Labovitch, the company started as Cornmarket Press, publishing The Directory of Opportunities for Graduates. Two years later the company attempted to resuscitate the proto-men's magazine Man About Town, with considerable critical but little financial success – in fact the magazine's printer Hazell Watson & Viney put up a financial stake, leading to the formation of Haymarket and allowing the company to buy MIMS (the bible of the pharmaceutical business) and GP, the trade paper for doctors. Labovitch left in 1966, taking Cornhill as his share, and Heseltine – who was elected as an MP in the same year – had to sell a large stake in Haymarket to the British Printing Company (later a part of Robert Maxwell's empire) in order to survive, although this allowed him to add more trade titles to his stable, including Management Today.

    In 1968 the company bought World's Press News, the weaker of two trade papers serving the advertising industry, closed it down and from the wreckage launched Campaign. The new magazine was a brilliant mixture of style and substance with thoroughly researched journalism allied to superb photography and it rapidly dominated the market.

    With stable finances Haymarket was in a position to expand into the perhaps more exciting field of consumer publishing, launching What Car? in 1973; brand extension into awards ceremonies followed in 1984 and exhibitions in 1990; there were also joint ventures in Spain, France and Italy. In 1998 the last piece of the jigsaw was put in place when Haymarket moved into Customer publishing by developing Racing Line for F1 competitor McLaren. Finally, the company has been at the forefront of developing digital media; these may be based on standalone Consumer titles (stuff. tv), aggregate B2B print properties ( or be entirely new entities such as PistonHeads.


    Future was founded by journalist Chris Anderson in 1985. From his garage he put together a single magazine, Amstrad Action, but what really distinguished it was the cover-mounted computer disk, thus giving purchasers both something to read and something to play with on their computers. This pattern was followed for many of Future's subsequent hobby titles. Future has had a somewhat chequered corporate history, including being sold to Pearson plc (1994) and re-acquisition by Anderson, Greg Ingham and Apax Venture Partners (1998) but by mid-2008 seemed to have settled down under CEO Stevie Spring. Its current portfolio includes official titles for Xbox 360, PlayStation and Nintendo, Digital Camera, Total Film, Classic Rock and Guitarist, along with associated websites and digital offshoots. Future has a very active overseas licensing division and a contract publishing division, Future Plus.

    Chris Anderson now curates the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences.

    BBC Magazines

    The BBC's first magazines were Radio Times (September 1923) and the Listener (1929-1991). In 1987 the BBC licensed Focus Magazines to produce a quarterly magazine to accompany the Clothes Show programme (it closed in 1997). When both the BBC and ITV were forced to provide advance listings to other outlets, the BBC sought to make up lost revenue by buying Redwood, a publisher of contract titles, and developing a range of magazines based on BBC brands like Top Gear, Good Food and Gardeners' World.

    BBC Magazines parted company from Redwood in 1993, and since then has developed titles in many sectors, most of them based on programmes. Those that are not based on specific programmes, such as All About Animals in the pre-teen market, or Top of the Pops, where the magazine has outlived the programme, have to achieve a quality of ‘connectivity’ with BBC output and the corporation's values.

    In 2004 BBC Magazines bought a small contract and consumer publisher based in Bristol. A number of smaller circulation titles (BBC History, BBC Music) were transferred to Bristol Magazines, which has launched titles based on the family history show Who Do You Think You Are? and the long running CountryFile.

    BBC Magazines is the third largest publisher of consumer magazines in the UK, licenses many titles to overseas publishers, has a lively joint venture with the Times of India, is focused on making its brands platform neutral – and in 2010, as part of the BBC's strategic review, announced that it was seeking a commercial partner to take over its titles.

    Dennis Publishing

    Dennis Publishing was founded in 1973 by Felix Dennis with money earned from a biography of martial artist Bruce Lee that contained the last interview before he died. Early titles tended to be one-shots (single issues on a special subject, such as Kung Fu) and from these Dennis grew a personal fortune and a thriving publishing company that currently includes Maxim (at one time the most successful men's magazine in the USA and possibly the world), Auto Express, Viz and The Week among its brands. The latter title was a shrewd acquisition by Dennis, who has never been afraid of putting his money where he believed a profit could be made, and a concept that Dennis Publishing is rolling out globally. “There is no country in the world where the concept of The Week will not work,” Dennis told Arif Durrani of Media Week (Media Week, 19/5/2009).

    Dennis Publishing has also led the way into multimedia with the launch of Monkey, iGizmo and iMotor as digitally delivered magazines. Dennis Communications is the contract publishing arm.

    Felix Dennis will always be tagged as one of the “Oz three” following his brief spell in jail alongside Richard Neville and Jim Anderson – punishment for being found guilty of publishing an obscene edition of the underground magazine. Doubtless he reflects on this often while contemplating the Caribbean from his luxurious villa on Mustique. He has several volumes of poetry to his name.

    RBI (Reed Business Information)

    RBI is acknowledged to be the world's largest business-to-business publisher and exhibition organiser. It publishes over 400 B2B magazines and their associated digital offshoots, supports 200 online communities and runs 500 associated events. It is divided into four sections, covering the UK, the US, the Netherlands and Exhibitions. Its 100-plus UK titles include New Scientist, Farmers’ Weekly, Personnel Today and Flight International; among its US titles is Variety, the ‘bible’ of the entertainment industry.

    RBI was formed after the British publisher Reed merged with Dutch publisher Elsevier to form Reed Elsevier. Reed started life in 1889 when Albert Reed bought a paper mill in Dartford, Kent, and five years later added another mill near Aylesford. The business soon specialised in newsprint, supplying The Times among others, and continued to expand into paper and paper-related fields, grew into a paper and board producing giant around the world, then acquired businesses that needed paper, such as newspapers and magazines. The Dutch side of the business goes back to 1880, when Jacobus George Robbers set up a publishing company in Rotterdam. He called it Elsevier after a noted family of 16th century booksellers and printers.

    In 1970 the British company was renamed Reed International Limited and bought the IPC-Mirror Group. This brought the newspaper and significant magazine, periodical and book publishing and printing interests, including Odhams, George Newnes, National Trade Press, Pearsons, Collinridge, Amalgamated Press, Kellys, Thomas Skinner, Iliffe & Son, Hulton Press and Butterworths. Reed's publishing activities were separated into Mirror Group Newspapers and IPC in 1974 and the magazine side was organised into IPC Business Press Ltd and IPC Magazines Ltd.

    Reed International and Elsevier merged in 1993, and shortly afterwards sold Reed Regional Newspapers in a £210 million management buyout – the papers were renamed Newsquest Media Group and later acquired by Gannett. The consumer magazine interests were finally disposed of in 1998 with a management buyout of IPC Magazines (see above). In 2002 the company changed its name to Reed Elsevier PLC.

    The conglomerate has three operating divisions, Elsevier, Lexis-Nexis and RBI. In February 2008 Reed Elsevier decided that it no longer wanted to be in the advertising-dependent B2B magazine publishing business and put RBI up for sale at £1.25bn. At the time of writing (July 2010) it had not found a buyer.


    The three men who formed Redwood in November 1983 were, respectively, a former Fleet Street editor, a magazine company director and one of the pioneers of home computing. Christopher Ward (ex-Daily Express), Michael Potter (ex-Haymarket) and Chris Curry (founder of Acorn Computers) all believed there was a gap in the market for publishing magazines on behalf of other companies. Or rather, for publishing good magazines that their clients' customers would want to read.

    The first Redwood-produced title was E!, sent to 230,000 American Express card holders. E! looked and felt like a quality magazine and contributors such as Kingsley Amis, Keith Waterhouse, Anthony Burgess, Jack Higgins, Max Hastings and Leslie Thomas helped to provide compelling content. Redwood confidently claim that the title ‘earned its place in history as the first real customer magazine’. (Sara Cremer, personal communication)

    Other landmark Redwood productions have included The M&S Magazine (qv), Sky TV Guide (qv) and the first iterations of BBC magazines – Good Food and Top Gear among them.

    Key UK Titles of the Late 20th Century
    Consumer Magazines

    Angling Times (Emap: 1953–) was first published as a way of keeping the East Midland Allied Press printworks busy in downtime. Its appearance was much more like a newspaper than a magazine but it harnessed the enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge and information of a very broad, but specific, niche, fishing being the UK's largest participatory pastime. The profits from this specialist weekly laid the foundations for Emap to build one of the biggest periodical empires in the UK and a chain of radio stations … before it all fell apart and was sold to Bauer.

    Nova (IPC: 1965–1975) helped to define and document the swinging 60s for women and led to ‘modern’ women's magazines. The content caused some culture-shock for IPC's managers; speaking to Jeremy Leslie of http://magculture.comNova's art editor David Hillman explained:

    Our editorial director was also in charge of Woman and Woman's Own. They were full of knitting patterns, never upset anybody. Each magazine had editorial meetings every Wednesday, so he'd leave the Woman meeting where he'd be discussing which royal family story they were going to run, come upstairs to Nova, to find this months cover story was sexually transmitted diseases in woman's prisons. (

    But once Nova had beaten the path, Hillman continued, everyone else followed:

    We opened the door for every other fucking magazine in the UK. Nova talked about buggery, transvestites, gay this, gay that. The minute we did it even Woman's Own in its prim little way was able to approach the same subject. A taboo had been broken, we'd put our neck on the block. (loc cit)

    Car (Natmags, ForceFour, FF, Murdoch, Emap/Bauer: 1960s–) took what had been a fairly dull technical/enthusiast genre and added literary writing, great photography and outstanding art editing. In doing so, it tripled sales and led to motoring magazines that offered entertainment, information and aesthetic pleasure, and thus to the international behemoth that is Top Gear.

    Former editor Mel Nichols remembers:

    I took its circulation from 33,000 to 90,000. I guess it was Wendy Harrop, the art director, and I who defined and refined the relationship between its journalism and its photography and graphics … Apart from the more literary, experiential writing style we developed, Car's approach to photography and design also profoundly affected many other motoring magazines, particularly in the UK and US but in Japan, Scandinavia and Germany too. (Mel Nichols, Personal Communication)

    The Face (Wagadon, Emap: 1980–2004) captured a small but influential style-and-clubbing scene, aided by Neville Brody's trend-setting art design. Founding editor Nick Logan had achieved great commercial success for Emap with Smash Hits but The Face was where his heart lay. The magazine gained a second wind when Richard Benson took over as editor. The Face established a new sector that was also populated by Blitz and i-D and has caused much excitement over the years among academic commentators who discerned the identity formation of the ‘new man’ in its pages. Sadly for them, this aspect of gender role revision was wiped out by …

    Loaded (IPC: 1994–), the IPC launch that started the genre of lad mags, usually credited to James Brown but Mick Bunnage and Tim Southwell were important to the development of the new title. The magazine's strapline, ‘For Men Who Should Know Better’, implied a knowing and wilful reaction to the idea of the ‘new man’ but for all its descent into tawdriness, Loaded initially offered a breath of fresh air under James Brown's editorship; it was a magazine for men that was neither a hobby book nor a skin mag. Sadly, as the new sector became over-populated with would-be copycat publications quality and originality took a dive, leading its progenitor to disown it. At a PTC awards ceremony in 2000 Brown took to the stage to say:

    If I'd known when I started Loaded that the men's sector would descend into a conveyor belt of old soap stars in bikinis, I assure you I would not have done it … Content-wise, I think the men's sector is stale, predictable and uninspiring. It is an embarrassment. The bigger companies that produce the magazines should be embarrassed with themselves because they have the finances to keep their titles stable and they haven't had the guts to do it. (Personal note of speech)

    In October 2010 IPC sold Loaded to Vitality, a company best known for publishing the gay man's lifestyle title Attitude.

    Smash Hits (Emap: 1979–2006) and Just Seventeen (Emap: 1983–2004) between them shook up, dominated and shaped the teen market that had previously been ruled by DC Thomson's Jackie. However, even these titles that influenced the way teenage girls spoke and that sold hundreds of thousands of copies at their peak proved unsustainable in face of socio-cultural change. Their readerships fell away, advertising revenue plunged and they closed within two years of each other.

    When Smash Hits closed, former editor David Hepworth commented:

    Smash Hits began life as a pop music magazine. It wrote about anybody who got in the charts. Its early covers featured Donna Summer, Jimmy Pursey, Elton John and Plastic Bertrand. Founding editor Nick Logan's attitude was ‘try anything and see what works’ … The problem in any media enterprise arises when you learn what works and then attempt to repeat it. This was no longer a pop magazine read by girls. It was a girls’ magazine. Then it was a girls’ magazine read by girls who liked the groups built for girls. What had begun as a broad church turned into a narrow sect and then became less appealing even to that narrow sect until, like the 14-year-old Billie Piper with the bubble gum on one of the many TV ad campaigns that failed to save it, Smash Hits simply went pop. (

    Since then, Smash Hits has been revived for a couple of special issues, notably after Michael Jackson's death.

    Bella and Best (H Bauer; G&J of the UK, NatMags: 1985–) spearheaded an attack by German publishers H Bauer and Gruner & Jahr that successfully challenged the cosy dominance of IPC's weeklies Woman, Woman's Own and Woman's Weekly. This was a de facto, and perhaps inevitable, globalisation of magazine market that has been analysed in Women's Weekly Market In Great Britain (Evans, Evans and Ungersma, Cardiff: nd) but it also led to a major shake up of women's weeklies, one result of which was …

    Take A Break (H Bauer: 1990–), which has become a consistent leader in its field and is one of the few magazines to have nurtured its own political party – twice: the Mum's Army of 2006 and Voices For Women of 2010 (

    Heat (Emap, Bauer: 1999–), which started as a general entertainment title but soon became the touchstone of snide celebrity reportage, was another by-product of the shake-up in women's publishing. Although it came after the launches of Hello (1988) and OK! (1993), that had between them established the genre in the UK, Heat took the form to a higher – or lower – level than its precursors.

    Customer Magazines

    High Life (Highgate Publications; Cedar Communications: 1973–) was founded by Bill Davies, one of the busiest, yet comparatively unsung, journalists of the 20th century. Davies's career encompassed the Financial Times, the Evening Standard, the Guardian, BBC radio (he presented the World at One in its early days) and television (the Money Programme was his idea) and Punch. High Life was among the first in-flight magazines and is a very early, and long lived, example of modern Customer publishing. It has been joined by siblings Business Life and High Life Shopping.

    Sky TV Guide/SKY: The Magazine/SkyMag/Sky Magazine (Redwood, John Brown, News Magazines, BSkyB Publications: 1994–) deserves its place here because it is the biggest magazine, by far, in the UK. Its ABC-audited circulation for the period July to December 2009 was 7,423,570. It started as a straightforward television guide for BSkyB subscribers but developed into a full blown magazine as it passed through the skilled hands of first Redwood Publishing and then John Brown Citrus, two of the country's most successful contract magazine publishers. When News Corporation set up News Magazines in 2006, the company bid for and, perhaps unsurprisingly, won the contract to produce Sky. Sadly, magazines proved one field that Rupert Murdoch's empire could not successfully conquer and the title has moved in-house to BSkyB.

    The M&S Magazine (Redwood: 1987–) was the UK's first retail customer title and it changed both the face of this type of magazine and the way they are published. As Redwood's editorial director Sara Cremer notes:

    Not only was this the first retail customer magazine, but it was a turning point for Redwood in determining the content and positioning of all future customer magazines. The power of the planning department was born as focus groups and research revealed what readers demanded of the magazine: ‘More information about M&S products and services please!’

    The magazine, which was to have been called Seasons, was promptly renamed The M&S Magazine and every page would be a selling page ‘only it wouldn't look that way to customers’. From that moment on, relevance became the guiding light for Redwood editors in shaping editorial content. (Personal communication)

    B2B Magazines

    Management Today (Haymarket et al: 1966–) was a joint venture by Haymarket, the British Institute of Management, the Financial Times and the Economist. It gave business managers a lively, well informed, interesting and good looking publication of their own. The didactic purpose was to help improve the quality of management in the UK, but it was presented in an extremely palatable way. Lessons learned from this were soon applied to …

    Campaign (Haymarket: 1968–) was launched, phoenix like, from the remains of a periodical called World Press News that had been bought by Haymarket Publishing, run by Michael Heseltine. Where WPN had been dull and worthy, Campaign was bright, inquisitive and imbued the advertising industry with a sheen of glamour that has lasted to this day. If nothing else, Campaign demonstrated that it was possible, and even desirable, to publish a trade magazine (the sector had not then been dubbed B2B) that borrowed art direction ideas from the consumer press, including stunning photography.

    Online Magazines

    The online magazine is now commonplace, either as a standalone venture or as a brand extension of a print title. There was a time, however, when launching an online magazine was a leap into the unknown. (IPC: 1996–) was highly influential in demonstrating the power of the web to reach a new audience. Launched under the editorship of Brendan Fitzgerald, it was not until Anthony Thornton redesigned the site in 1998 with a focus on news that it began to make waves, winning the PPA Website Of The Year twice and gaining for Thornton the British Society of Magazine Editors Online Editor of the Year award. The ability to present up-to-the-second news was soon allied to the power to purchase gig tickets and albums, creating a strong business model. (BBC Worldwide) is notable for being one leg of a tri-partite cross-platform strategy intended to give the brand a 360-degree media presence. The other legs are print (the magazine) and television (the programme). Before implementing the plan in 2007, the BBC had to overcome numerous internal barriers to allow all three elements to operate from the same physical space, and it is this integration of all three that warrants Top Gear's appearance here. (Dave Edmonston; Haymarket: 1999–) was set-up by Dave Edmonston as a place where owners of TVR sports cars could discuss panel fit, engine failure and electrical meltdowns. This simple idea captured something essential, the forums expanded to include other marques and topics and by the end of 2006 it was attracting 900,000 unique users and 28 million page impressions every month – a huge ‘readership’ that rivalled the online versions of well-established print magazines.

    In January 2007 Haymarket, publisher of print and online magazines such as What Car? and Autocar, made Edmonston an offer he could not refuse and incorporated the website into its stable – a brave and radical move considering that the title's main asset was its online community, an entity that could disappear literally at any moment. However, it is also a move that indicates a strong belief in the communitarian aspect of magazine theory and thus the action of a committed magazine publisher.


    The bookazine has become something of a staple on the news stand – thicker and less designed than a magazine, thinner and more picture-led than a book and focused on a single topic. The bookazine tradition goes back a long way – for example, roadtests from the American motorcycle magazine Cycle World provided specialist publisher Brooklands with the material for many slim volumes: pages from the magazine literally reproduced and bound together behind an index. Next step up is for a large newsagent (such as WH Smith) to commission an author (or, increasingly, publisher) to write 20,000 words on a particular subject (such as tv programme Heartbeat) and market the resulting bookazine as an ‘exclusive’ publication.

    Pistonheads: The Best Bits 2009 (Haymarket) went one further in taking a selection of material from the website, including reader contributions such as forum postings, and publishing it as a 200-page paper edition.

    This is a phenomenon we will almost certainly see more of; for example, in June 2010 Future Publishing announced that it was launching a 132-page print version of its online technology portal TechRadar and more are planned. In the USA, Hearst's CEO Cathie Black explained:

    Another retail strategy we're using to drive growth is the ‘bookazine’, a magazine generated from branded Hearst content. As part of our overall strategy to offer consumers and advertisers multiple access routes into Hearst-branded content, we are also planning more products that convert digital content to print. (

    Hearst's British outpost is the National Magazine Company (NatMags), whose titles include Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Esquire, so this is another trend that will almost certainly spread across the Atlantic.

    Whatever the exact form or format, one thing is for sure – magazines will survive. Compare what The Spectator wrote on 2 April 1831 with the situation today and make your own judgement:

    We are afraid the day for Magazines is gone by; it is a form of publication which does not suit the wants of the reading world, in the present state of literature. The Newspapers and the Weekly Reviews, in their improved and extended form, have taken the ground formerly occupied by the Magazines, and with great advantage of more frequent publication … Magazines formerly occupied the precise position of some of the present Weekly Papers; witness the list of bankrupts, the obituary, the prices of stocks, etc., which formerly adorned them, and which are now omitted simply because they are forestalled by the Newspaper. (Herd, 1952: 204)


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    Davies, Loraine (2008) Director, Periodicals Training Council, 30 November.
    Douglas, Jim (2008) Editorial Director, Future Publishing, 4 November.
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    Gent, Helen (2008) Freelancer, 30 October, 6 November.
    Harris, Mike (2008) Editor of Golf Monthly, 5 November.
    Hart, Sarah (2008) Former Editor of Mother and Baby and Pregnancy and Birth, 28 October.
    Holden, Moira (2008) Freelancer, completed questionnaire.
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    Rawlings, Michelle (2008) Freelancer, runs Outline Features Agency, 1 November.
    Todd, Sarah (2008) Freelancer, former Editor of Yorkshire Life, 5 November.
    Toner, John (2009) Freelance representative, NUJ, 29 January.
    Wright, Sharon (2008) Senior Content Editor, ukfamily.

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