In a non-digital all-print foray into multi-media, no self-respecting modern newspaper can be seen without a magazine. Alan Geere checks the insertions on the weekend newsstand.
The Observer Magazine
Vital statistics: December 4, 2016 issue: 72 pages of 273mm x 205mm. Thinnish gloss paper, including cover, stitched. Newspaper has £3 cover price. ABC of 188,657 (October 2016). Published by Guardian Media Group in London and printed in the Netherlands.
Cover: Full bleed picture (Riz Ahmed peering over the top of the masthead) with coverline. Five little come-ons strung along the foot of the page.
Content: Picture-led contents on page five neatly signpost to the specials (Ahmed interview, a piece on serial litigants) but it is the regulars that catch the eye. Nigel Slater and Jay Rayner on food plus fashion, homes, gardens, travel and ‘Dear Mariella’ (Frostrup, of course) are all dip-in delights. And two other regulars – ‘This Much I Know’ and ‘A Brush With Greatness’ – provide more pleasures. This week courtesy of Jenni Murray and Tony ‘Radio Luxembourg’ Prince, bless ’em.
Digital: Magazine has a platform on theguardian.com, where all the content is freely available. Plugging away on Twitter (22k followers) and Instagram (5k).
What they say: “Observer Magazine is an intelligent lifestyle magazine. We lead the conversation on the topics of the day, from sex and fashion to politics and social issues. Whether you want in-depth interviews with A-list stars or personal accounts of lives less ordinary, OM is essential reading matter.” – Deputy editor Alice Fisher tells it like it is in the media pack.
Verdict: Feels thin and small and with fifteen people credited with an editorial position, it’s difficult to see what they are all doing. Everything is very competent and the contributors clearly know what they are doing, but it feels that someone, somewhere’s heart is not in it.
S (Sunday Express)
Vital statistics: December 4, 2016 issue: 84 pages of 258mm x 220mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, stitched. Newspaper has £1.40 cover price. ABC of 349,220. Published by Express Newspapers in London.
Cover: Full bleed picture of a model wearing ‘sequins and satin’ (plus £389 bracelet we learn inside), three other coverlines including the £1,000 prize crossword and the masthead – a big ‘S’.
Content: Neat contents page divided into Fashion, Lifestyle, People, Regulars. Quick reads plus big pictures make it an easy flick-through. Has the luxury of a ‘Literary Editor’ with book reviews and a short story, complete with Mills and Boonish illustration. Also has 15 pages of TV and radio listings which ensures a longer shelf life.
Digital: Has a hidey-hole on express.co.uk. A miserable 3,158 followers on Twitter and just 500 on Instagram, with no Facebook promoted.
What they say: “Feeling slightly disconcerted by the recent update on my FB profile. According to @facebook I've died!” – Lifestyle editor Victoria Gray on Twitter from beyond the grave.
Verdict: Has the feel of a mid-market women’s magazine with plenty to look at, but not much to get your teeth into. A total of eighteen people credited with working on the title. To use an old newspaper metric, that’s just less than five measly pages each per week. Never mind, if you fancy the £1,000 crossword prize, then that helpful Mr Google has all the answers.
The Sunday Times Magazine
Vital statistics: December 4, 2016 issue: 88 pages of 278mm x 208mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Newspaper has £2.50 cover price. ABC of 781,237. Published by Times Newspapers in London.
Cover: Full bleed picture of a manic-looking Ricky Gervais plus four coverlines plugging his interview with Lynn Barber. Masthead and date. Nothing else.
Content: Page three contents has big page numbers for the main body of work plus a column of ‘Life’. The cover story runs to five pages complete with arty pictures so it’s good to see longer form journalism alive and well. A feature on dog pictures is complemented by a poignant piece on a bullied 17-year-old who took his own life. And the sides to the main course – eating, tech, driving (with that nice Mr Clarkson) – don’t disappoint either. And, of course, there is ‘A Life in the Day’, still one of the most gorgeously simple features ever devised.
Digital: Go to thesundaytimes.co.uk and you are thrown into the generic Times ‘welcome’ (aka pay now) page. The ST magazine is there if you look hard enough and also on social media, with a very healthy 378k followers on Twitter but only 3,404 Facebook likes.
What they say: “Busy 21st-century lives now leave very little time to make choices, so we've combined our award-winning journalism with all you need to know about modern life in one convenient place.” – editor Eleanor Mills talking up a relaunch, sorry “substantial refresh”, in February 2016.
Verdict: The ST mag was first published in February 1962, so they’ve had nearly 55 years to practise getting it right. Some may lament the demise of the larger format but with its wide range of topics, good writing, stylish photography and comfortable design, it’s still a joy to invite into your home.
Vital statistics: December 3, 2016 issue: 108 pages of 295mm x 228mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, stitched. Newspaper has £2.00 cover price. ABC of 456,999. Published by Telegraph Media Group in London.
Cover: Picture of Ralph Lauren (wearing plaid, on a horse) plus big coverlines. Three promos in ‘Plus’ strung along the foot of the page. Masthead.
Content: Page three contents divided into ‘the front’, ‘features’ and ‘food & home’ and still room for a half-page picture and credits for no less than 24 people. Plenty to read throughout, although the picture display could be a little more daring given the space available. But there is a visit to Mongolia to meet the latest teenage film sensation – and her hunting eagle.
Digital: No discrete area for the mag at telegraph.co.uk but content is there, sometimes with added video. No visible link in print but a search finds 21k followers on Twitter and a Facebook page that has had no posts since May 2015.
What they say: “Lay it on the line, talk straight and play your cards right, then more likely than not, it'll all come good in the end.” – Picture editor Andy Greenacre with what he calls #comminssioningtip43 (sic) on Twitter.
Verdict: The biggest of this Spotlight selection – a total of 7.264 square metres of print since you ask – but also the most disappointing. Generally underwhelming in its choice of topics and delivery. Sorry, just not feeling the love.
The Times Magazine
Vital statistics: December 3, 2016 issue: 116 pages of 270mm x 230mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Newspaper has £1.50 cover price. ABC of 437,352. Published by Times Newspapers in London.
Cover: Big macho picture of Bake Off favourite Paul Hollywood covering some of the masthead plus promo lines to his interview inside. No other coverlines.
Content: Picture-led contents on page five are a little difficult to follow with their trendy run-on, no paragraphs, style. But all the A-list columnists are there – Caitlin Moran (no swearing here, please), Giles Coren (no 500 Questions here, please) and Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain (everything is lovely, thanks) – plus some meaty reads like that interview with Mr H. and a piece on an outspoken political pundit.
Digital: Contents page links to Twitter (18.4k followers) and Instagram (4.2k). What appears to be a link from Twitter to a dedicated spot on thetimes.co.uk website take you only to you know what (see Sunday Times above).
What they say: “Complain to subscriptions” – editor Nicola Jeal replying to a Twitter follower who posted a picture of his sopping wet paper and magazine with the comment: “How hard is it to leave paper in letterbox, not rain?”
Verdict: They proudly display ‘Supplement of the Year’ on the front, and well they might. This is a sophisticated, fun and illuminating read from cover to cover. Well-written, neatly designed and illustrated with panache. A snip at ‘free’ with an already value-for-money Saturday Times at £1.50.
You (Mail on Sunday)
Vital statistics: December 4, 2016 issue: 108 pages of 285mm x 230mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Newspaper has £1.70 cover price. ABC of 1,315,997. Published by DMGT in London.
Cover: Full bleed staged pic of someone you may have seen on the telly, and the coverlines that go with it. Two other promos to inside and that lovely all lower-case masthead.
Content: Big, bold contents on page three scamper through ‘Fashion and beauty’, ‘Features’, ‘Lifestyle’, ‘Food’ and the rather prosaically titled ‘Regulars’, which houses Liz Jones’s Diary amongst other things. All of the features are for, or about, women including a neat interview with horsey woman extraordinaire Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, who didn’t say much but looked nice in the pictures.
Digital: An exhortation to ‘Join the conversation!’ along the foot of page three has the magazine’s own web presence – you.co.uk – plus links to Twitter (39.6k followers), Facebook (47.8k likes) and Instagram (33.1k followers). The same links annoyingly don’t open in a new window from the website and the contents are all simple links to magazine content with no interactivity encouraged. Still, more than 120,000 willing disciples can’t be wrong.
What they say: “An endorsement from You magazine sells product: it generates queues at beauty counters and empty rails in fashion departments.” – advertising bumf keeping the lines between editorial and advertising suitably blurred.
Verdict: This is a chunky read complemented by attractive and stylish advertising. Directed at a market of women with money and time to spend on some of the finer things, it does just enough to keep readers and advertisers coming back for more.