MEDIA PROFILE: Pop star considers her options - Lesley Johnston, editor, Options

The women’s monthly magazine market is going through a difficult stage. There’s clearly dissatisfaction (a reported 20 per cent of FHM’s readers are women), but none of the new launches or redesigns seem to have set the world on fire. With their younger brothers in the men’s market lapping up success, it’s not a nice place to be working at the moment.

The women’s monthly magazine market is going through a difficult

stage. There’s clearly dissatisfaction (a reported 20 per cent of FHM’s

readers are women), but none of the new launches or redesigns seem to

have set the world on fire. With their younger brothers in the men’s

market lapping up success, it’s not a nice place to be working at the

moment.



It’s with that background that Options has just recruited teen mag

Mizz’s editor Lesley Johnston as its new editor and charged her with

turning the magazine’s recent poor performance around. With circulation

languishing at around 145,000, Options needs a bit of an overhaul.

Johnston agrees, but isn’t giving much more away.



’I’m not starting at Options until 2 February and I’m not the sort of

person to walk straight into an office with a plan in black and white,

saying ’you do this’ and ’you’re fired’,’ she says. ’The staff are all

really motivated and enthusiastic, so I’m going to talk to them and work

things out from there.’



Johnston wants Options to be the kind of magazine that she’d love to

read, which is a luxury she didn’t have working on a magazine where all

feature ideas had to attract 15-year-old girls. ’I started my career on

Blue Jeans when, as an office junior, I picked up a phone in the

deserted office one lunchtime to be told Rick Astley and Mandy Smith

were at a local nightclub giving interviews,’ she says. ’I went down

there, did the interview and became pop editor practically that day.

I’ve loved pop music and pop culture ever since, but it’ll be nice to

work on a magazine where I’m the target reader.’



On Monday, the investment group Cinven paid Reed Elsevier almost pounds

900 million for Options’ parent company IPC. After the buyout was

agreed, Cinven issued a bullish press release about investment and new

launches.



The buyout is a further bar to Johnston enlarging on her plans, but she

seems optimistic. ’I’ve been at IPC for eight years and I’m more

optimistic now than ever before about the way the company is going,’ she

says. ’It seems open to change and it doesn’t appear to be a case of

putting relaunches on hold. I’ll be talking to the publishing director

Heather Love when I arrive on 2 February and I’ll get a clearer picture

about that sort of thing then.’



Options is seen by many readers as a supplementary buy. Focus groups

have said it’s the kind of magazine they pick up after they have

finished the others - Cosmo, Elle, Marie Claire, New Woman - and still

want something to read. ’That’s clearly not satisfactory,’ Johnston

says, ’but the first priority will be to establish where in the market

we should be. That means identifying our reader and offering her a USP.

The current Holy Grail is humour, but that’s not something we want to

force. I mean, I love a good laugh, but you can’t get people rolling in

their chairs all the time.



I think it’s going to be about entertainment more than anything

else.



We’ll have to entertain them.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1998: Editor, Options

1997: Editor, Mizz

1993: Deputy Editor, Mizz

1989: Features Editor, Mizz

1987: Pop Editor, Blue Jeans



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