In July, the High Court ruled that the BBC had infringed Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy, in a ruling that has potentially profound effects on the press’s ability to report on police investigations.
Whilst mistakes were clearly made by the BBC in the reporting of the Cliff Richard allegations, no one has disputed the accuracy of their reporting. That such a judgement, with potentially huge ramifications on press freedom, should come in the wake of a correctly reported story, is jaw dropping.
As the BBC’s Fran Unsworth said: “Even had the BBC not used helicopter shots or run the story with less prominence, the judge would still have found that the story was unlawful, despite ruling that what we broadcast about the search was accurate.”
As many media commentators have pointed out, this has a number of serious implications: it diminishes the public’s right to know, it restricts reporting of police activities, and it will make historical sex abuse harder to uncover. The ruling has extended the cloak of secrecy that hangs over much of public life in the UK, still further.
This year, the UK was ranked 40th in the World Press Freedom Index, down two positions on 2016.
Next year, in the wake of this ruling, I’m sure we’ll fall further, perhaps sinking lower than even the US. The public will not value press freedom until they’ve lost it, by which time it might be too late.
One of the biggest acquisitions this period was another private equity one – the buying of Dennis by Exponent. When Felix Dennis died in 2014, leaving the company to Heart of England Forest, the writing was on the wall; what was in the best interests of a forestry charity was not an annual dividend, which in these challenging times, probably wasn’t huge, but a big cash injection. Also, managing forests not publishing companies was its remit. Its stated goal is “planting and maintaining the largest contiguous, broadleaf woodland for public enjoyment that the UK has seen in a century”. Exponent will, no doubt, have a different set of corporate goals.
James Tye, Group CEO of Dennis, and his senior team stay on. James said of his new owners: “As partners, we share the belief that innovation and ambition are the keys to success and it’s this shared vision that will propel Dennis to its next phase of growth.”
Meanwhile, Future continued its current acquisitive streak with the acquisition of the consumer division of US publisher Purch, publishers of Tom’s Guide, Tom’s Hardware and Top Ten Reviews.
Zillah Byng-Thorne, CEO of Future, explained their thinking: “The two businesses share similar cultures - we both share our audiences’ passion, we’re data-driven, ambitious and both have an innovative mindset. From day one, Future will be number one in the US consumer technology sector, and beyond this, we see clear opportunities for combined growth.”
In July, Mark Allen Group (MAG) won the bid to acquire all the assets of the Rhinegold Group, which include International Piano, Choir & Organ, Classical Music, Teaching Drama, and Music Teacher, thereby significantly bolstering its existing music portfolio of Gramophone, Jazzwise and Songlines.
Mark Allen, chairman of MAG, said: "I have been stalking Rhinegold for the past three years and I am delighted to say that my hope in acquiring these excellent assets looks like being realised.”
Apparently the Rhinegold staff will be relocated from central London to MAG's offices at St Jude's Church in Herne Hill, which should be cosy; I imagine they’re already constructing another mezzanine floor to accommodate them.
Elsewhere, Accuity bought Safe Banking Systems, Euromoney acquired Random Lengths, Anthem Publishing bought Women’s Running magazine and Immediate bought BBC Good Food, a brand I confess to having thought they already owned, but which in fact they’d been publishing under licence for many years.
In the newspaper world, it’s all about opening up new verticals and launching new awards. The Telegraph has been particularly busy in this space. In July, they unveiled Telegraph Family, a new dedicated editorial section, offering features and opinion pieces that speak of the “joys and challenges” facing the modern family. It will include insight on parenting, advice on romantic relationships, and, perhaps of greater interest to the Telegraph’s readership, guidance for grandparents.
Telegraph Family launch editor Jonny Cooper said: "We know our readers value their positions as family members – whether that means as a mother, a husband, an aunt, a grandfather, a godparent, or any other relation.”
In the same week, The Telegraph launched the Stella Smart Beauty Awards, described as the biggest event in its beauty calendar. A combination of industry experts and Stella readers have picked 75 shortlisted products, including the Readers' Choice Award: Best Ageless Skincare.
Meanwhile, over at News UK, they are leveraging their extensive media portfolio (The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and talkSPORT) to launch The Motor Awards, a nationwide awards event for the motoring industry.
Rob Walsh, motors category director, News UK: “Over the last few years we have seen some incredible innovations come out of the UK automotive industry and we wanted to rightfully celebrate and recognise these achievements. This is the first time News UK have launched a nationwide set of motoring awards which will be backed by some of the biggest media brands in the country.”
In mag world, Harper’s Bazaar is set to launch Bazaar Art Week, a new series of consumer and industry events that will celebrate the achievements and talents of women in the art world.
Bazaar Art Week will take place at multiple locations across central London between 1 and 7 October. The event will connect readers with trailblazers from the art world, including museum directors, artists, curators, gallerists, collectors and entrepreneurs, say the publishers.
The power of the podcast
Whilst many publishers are holding back on podcasts, leaving it up to journalists to do their own thing, BBC History Magazine has enjoyed tremendous success with their podcast series, launched in 2007. In August, they celebrated their 500th edition.
Rob Attar, editor of BBC History Magazine, said: “When we trialled our first episode more than eleven years ago, we had little idea that we would one day be producing more than 100 programmes a year that would be heard many millions of times all across the world.”
The most popular ever episode was a conversation between historians Dan Jones and Helen Castor about Dan’s book on the year 1215, which has been listened to more than 210,000 times.
Perhaps inspired by their success, Vogue will launch its first-ever podcast series entitled Appearances, hosted by Academy Award-winner and contributing editor Steve McQueen.
In each weekly episode, McQueen and a guest will explore how their appearance has affected their life and how they perceive themselves. The podcast format was essential for this project as it bypasses the visual and focuses on description and memory, say the publishers.
Scheduled episodes include conversations with Adwoa Aboah, Daniel Kaluuya, Gwendoline Christie and Karen Elson.
In August, Condé Nast announced a new partnership between the company’s US and UK Condé Nast Traveller teams to create one editorial platform in 2019. Beginning with the January issues, all content creation for both US and UK editions will be overseen out of Condé Nast Britain, led by Melinda Stevens, editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveller, with fully integrated teams at Vogue House in London, One World Trade Center in New York and travel correspondents based in locations around the world.
As efficiency savings go, we will have to see how this pans out. Perhaps for a travel magazine where the editorial is collected internationally, there is potential, but will the articles be written in English or American? Colour or color; trousers or pants; harmonise or harmonize etc etc?
Some have wondered whether Elle, Vogue, and other titles with UK and US editions might follow suite. After all, they say, Hollywood films have successfully transcended national boundaries, so why not magazines? Perhaps, but the spoken and the written word are two very different things and magazine reading is a more personal experience than watching a movie. If the spelling and word choice suggest that the title has been written for your American / British cousins, will you value the experience as much?
As George Bernard Shaw once famously remarked: “England and America are two countries divided by a common language”…
July and August are not typically busy months for launches, with lots of the target audience, to say nothing of publishing staff, lying on a beach, rather than browsing a newsstand. There were a few though…
Science+Nature is a new monthly magazine from the team behind The Week Junior. Science+Nature is designed to ignite passion, inspire curiosity and stimulate discussion in 8- to 15-year-olds, says Dennis Publishing.
Dan Green, editor of Science+Nature and author of the Basher Science books, said, “Knowledge is power – we've brought together the best writers and experts to ensure that our readers get clear, accurate and fascinating information in a format that you genuinely can't find anywhere else.”
On the B2B side, the appetite for intelligence-led data products continues unabated. William Reed Business Media launched Lumina Intelligence, a new global insight service for the food and nutrition markets. Lumina tracks online consumer reviews and the product detail associated with them, across 20 countries and provides in-depth ingredient analysis and product labelling information, data-driven reports, infographics along with access to the data set via the online platform. All, presumably, business-critical, must-have information in the food and nutrition sector.
Finally, in Scotland, Reach announced the launch of Edinburgh Live – a standalone, digital-only offering and the fifth of its kind, after Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow and Leeds.
Editor Hilary Mitchell, formerly Scotland editor for BuzzFeed UK, said: “Edinburgh Live will harness the latest digital storytelling techniques to make sure every angle of a story is covered to the full, using video, galleries, interactive maps and much more besides. It’s a modern, dynamic digital newsroom with no political agenda or bias. Edinburgh Live is an independent voice with no editorial constraints.”
The Edinburgh site, which will be “a one-stop shop for everything that’s happening in the capital”, will be put together by a team of, err…, five journalists, which I suppose is an “editorial constraint” of sorts. I’m presuming that number will grow.