Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines

August 20, 2016

Publishing’s Dirty Little Secret

Filed under: Uncategorized — privatefraser @ 7:02 pm

Private Frazer doesn’t do campaigns. Snark, sarcasm, uncorroborated stories – yes, yes and oh yes, but manning the barricades? taking to the streets? That’s for people who actually care about something.

But here’s a story. It’s from an impeccable source (unusual for me) at what we’ll call Horribly Big Publishing Ltd. The source was doing some first interviews for a mid-level sales post and recommended one candidate to the head of advertising as worth giving a second interview. “Which one was he?” asked Horribly Big Publishing’s head of advertising. “Joe Bloggs, the tall black guy.” said my correspondent.

“No,” says the head of advertising, “we tried that experiment once and it didn’t work.”

Let that sink in. This is a publisher of some big names brands, in London – one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world. In 2016. Two thousand and fucking sixteen.

It’s extremely rare to come across that sort of overt prejudice anywhere, let alone a magazine publishing company, but before you feel too good about yourself, have a look around your own office. Does the proportion of non-white employees come close to what you’d see in a London street or London school? And how many publishing companies have people of colour at board level? I know of two off the top of my head – there may be more, but it’s hardly commonplace; I can think of more magazines where the entire staff – the entire staff – is white. (And have a wee look at the snapshots from last year’s PPA Awards ceremony.)

We need to face up to the fact that magazine publishing is institutionally racist. And we should be doing something about it.

I refer you back to the first sentence of this post, and you’ll realise that the “we” is Private Frazer kicking the ball down the park for someone else to pick up. Press Gazette, Media Briefing and, especially the PPA, over to you.

July 14, 2015

The PPPAwards

Filed under: magazines — privatefraser @ 2:34 pm
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AS what seemed like hour twelve passed at Thursday’s PPA Awards the wine stopped having an anaesthetising effect, the origami had lost what limited attractions it had and I was contemplating ritual disembowelment with the selfie stick when epiphany struck.

If these awards are the “magazine industry’s Oscars” (as no one sober and in command of their senses has ever called them) then they deserve their own ‘Golden Raspberries‘ a celebration of world class incompetence within magazine media in the UK, providing a new benchmark by which all consumer and business media brands are judged..

The plan is (subject to the usual proviso of actually being arsed to do any work) to institute the PPPAwards – or “Piss Poor Publishing Awards”, otherwise known as “The Privates“. There will be a limited number of awards given in this first year, but I hope it will soon become as fozie and unwieldy as the genuine ceremony. Sponsorship will be by John Bull Printing Sets, Ceefax and W H Smiths.

Nominations will open shortly so use this “follow this blog” form below to get the official announcement.

I’d also like to recruit some external judges to add a semblance of independence to what will be my purely arbitrary decisions. If you’d like to be part of the exclusive judging panel, email me (anonymity guaranteed, even for you Bazza).

The award ceremony will take place some time in September and be held exclusively on Twitter where guests can sit down to a splendid dinner and drink the finest wines (just so long as they’ve brought their own). It will be black tie.

Follow the blog or email me to be kept informed on any progress.

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July 7, 2015

NME of Reason

Filed under: Chair by the door,Corporate bollocks,doomed launches,free magazines — privatefraser @ 2:40 pm
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Do you remember the Avengers movie? Not the Marvel Comics one, the updating of the 60s TV series? How about Steve Martin as Sergeant Bilko? Ray Winstone in the retread of The Sweeney? No?

It’s hardly surprising. Each of them was a terrible film, a ‘reinvention’ of a ‘brand’ put together by producers desperately hoping the new incarnation could take a name that meant something to a previous generation and find a new market with contemporary audiences. Ludicrously misconceived, they were doomed to fail.

Which brings us neatly to the NME. (more…)

March 31, 2015

Loaded has left the building

Filed under: closures — privatefraser @ 9:00 am

Of course the death of Loaded isn’t really the “end of an era” ((c) all newspapers). That ended ten or even fifteen years ago or, arguably, when the first “me-too” copy was rushed out by a rival desperate to emulate the magazine’s success.

The parallel is with Elvis: something genuinely new and different, rapidly absorbed by the system it originally seemed to stand outside; bought off, compromised and reduced to irrelevance.

Because the tawdry and constipated magazine that has just closed bears no relation (other than the title) to the original Loaded. Love it or loathe it, the 1994 incarnation was sui generis – gonzo journalism reborn for the ’90s – and not even its creators knew what made it work (as the less than fabulous subsequent career of James Brown shows).

Plenty of people tried of course – FHM, Maxim, Front, then the execrable Nuts and Zoo  – but they lacked the wit of the original, reducing everything to the lowest common denominator. And Loaded went the same way –  because no one knew what made it work, no one knew that they’d broken it – and we ended up with the dismal procession of sub soft porn content and the replacement of genuine humour with ‘banter’. (more…)

August 13, 2014

Corridor of Uncertainty

Filed under: Chair by the door,consumer magazines — privatefraser @ 9:00 am

There’s nothing that says ‘summer’ more than the thwack of P45 on doormat and it’s going to be a long, hot one for the team over at The Cricketer (formerly ‘The Wisden Cricketer’, even more formerly ‘The Cricketer’).

I say ‘team’, but according to Liz Gerard’s SubScribe blog, the editor and both staff writers have now been made redundant, leaving the magazine with no full time journalists.

It’s got everything Private Frazer asks for from a spectator sport – a once-famous brand bought by a multimillionaire owner with no background in publishing, a rapidly falling circulation (down 20% in three years) and crushingly low workforce morale.

No need to refer to the third umpire on this one.

August 6, 2014

Think of the children

Filed under: magazines — privatefraser @ 10:33 am

I thought I could get away with a one word entry for Peter Houston’s wee ’Magazine Diaries’ project, but apparently it had to be exactly 100 words. “Doomed, doomed, we’re all doomed” 20 times would have done it, but in the end I went for a suitably upbeat, joyous and life-affirming entry with the minimum of repetition. (And if you haven’t done your 100 words yet you have until Friday.)

A fair few of the entries about publishing’s wonderful present seem either to be written while under the influence of strong drink, or based on redefining ’magazine’ as anything that’s got content in it. One wee laddie even said that Buzzfeed was a magazine – presumably in the same way that ASOS is a ’catalogue’, or Facebook is an ’address book’.

My effervescent optimism about magazine publishing is for the ink on paper periodical, or its bastard offspring the digital page-turner (was there ever a more pointless hybrid of old and new technologies?). They’re doomed, and the companies clinging to this model can only wring so much cash from their products before the inevitable terminus. Some of what we currently call ’magazines’ will survive as digital ’brands’, but that won’t be based on the auld publishing model of ’issues’ and ’publication dates’ and ’contents pages’ and ’covers’. It won’t be bought in shops or delivered to your home or read in the bath. Some of the current publishing companies will transmute and survive, but lots of them won’t, mainly because new starters don’t have to carry the financial or emotional baggage of a print legacy and they’ll steal oor dinner. (more…)

June 3, 2014

Back to Future

Filed under: Chair by the door,consumer magazines,Future Publishing — privatefraser @ 11:38 am
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“In forming our opinion … we have considered the adequacy of the disclosure made … within the consolidated interim financial information concerning the company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The company incurred a net loss of £30.0m during the six months ended 31 March 2014 and … had net current liabilities of £21.6m. These conditions … indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” PricewaterhouseCoopers, Report on the consolidated interim financial statements Futureplc

Even by their own high standards, this has been a rough few months for Future. Profit warnings, redundancies, the departure of a CEO, the sale of their (profitable) cycling and craft titles as they attempt to patch (another) hole in their balance sheet and now yet more redundancies. Once these sales and lay offs have happened, Future will be down to fewer than 500 staff in the UK – as recently as 2011 the company employed more than 1,200.

Future’s shares, which were worth 29p in 2011 are now down to around 9p. They’ve lost 90% of their value since 2005. When the sale to Immediate was announced the shares rose by a penny, an indication perhaps that the banks see more value in the dismemberment of the company than in its long term survival. (more…)

May 29, 2014

To be continued…

Filed under: Future Publishing — privatefraser @ 8:46 pm
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I had sort of retired, but the self-defenestration of Future deserves another (final?) post. I’ll power up the old Amstrad and get back to you shortly…

If you’re after previous frolics from the Bath funsters, follow this link to read previous entries

March 31, 2014

And another…

Filed under: closures,consumer magazines,Corporate bollocks — privatefraser @ 7:04 pm
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As Private Frazer mentioned last month, it isn’t a question of if, but when the “lads’ mags” category will finally be put out of our misery, and the latest inevitable closure is IPC’s Nuts magazine. IPC have form in flogging dead horses to any buyer with a smart suit and plausible manner, so the fact that even they couldn’t offload this turkey (I will mix whatever metaphors I choose, thank you very much) suggests that the pool of stupid, wannabe publishers is not as deep as previously.

Now that Nuts is toast, Bauer can presumably declare victory and shut Zoo without loss of face.

Corporate bollocks award of the day goes to Paul Williams, managing director of IPC’s Inspire division. “After 10 years at the top of its market [you know what they say about scum always rising to the top], we have taken the difficult decision to propose the closure of Nuts … IPC will provide impacted staff with all the support they need during the consultation process.

Impacted“? You mean “fired” Paul, or “redundant”, surely?

March 11, 2014

Craft Work

Filed under: closures,consumer magazines — privatefraser @ 8:56 am
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Have we reached peak craft?

One of the few growth categories over the past few years has been in the “make do and mend”/”weave your own shroud” area, bringing to mind thousands of “crafters” producing tat to sell on to other crafters in a closed loop of economic virtue.

But last year saw Immediate cut Cloth,  MyTimeMedia (got to love that name) recently terminated Homemade with Love, and the latest closure from Practical Publishing is Crafty magazine which lasted just one year.

If rumours are true (which they seldom are, but that’s never stopped me repeating them in the past) we can look forward to a few more instances of unplanned recycling in the next few months.

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