MEDIA: HIGH SOCIETY - Society mags enjoy renewed high life. Changes to the lifestyle and attitudes of the nation's social elite have reshaped the agenda for upper crust magazines, says Stephen Armstrong

In the old days, a glossy magazine for the landed gentry was an

easy job for an editor; you'd do some deb's dresses, a couple of balls,

Lord so-and-so's family in their lovely home and a swift nod to the

social calendar, then wrap it up and send it to the printers. These

days, however, it's a whole lot more complicated than that.

As the social mores of the readership have changed - from being caught

doing cocaine in Cannes by News of the World to checking into rehab or

garnering a late night gameshow on Granada Men and Motors or 4Later -

the debs and bachelors that were the meat and drink of Tatler and

Harpers & Queen are entering the new millennium with a bang.

Former debs diary queens like Lady Victoria Hervey and Tara Palmer

Tomkinson are as likely to appear in GQ or Loaded as they are in the

pages of the magazines that made them. Both are also regular fodder for

the tabloid press.

At the same time, there's been a spate of launches that overlap with

this sector - from Conde Nast's rather brassy Glamour to the

fast-growing Wallpaper*'s various spin-offs including a fashion magazine

to be launched this summer - and have had an effect on the market. The

Sunday Times Style section also continues to pick up fashion stories

that would have made good Tatler and Harpers copy and can run these

stories on a weekly rather than monthly basis.

Maybe it's no coincidence that both magazines have changed editors in

the last year. Tatler recruited Geordie Greig from The Sunday Times in

the summer and Harpers took Tatler deputy Lucy Yeoman shortly after.

Now both are repositioning their magazines in this increasingly

confusing market.

'I think both magazines are still top of the tree in their markets,'

says Alix Robson, managing director of Aurelia PR which handles Jaguar,

Bang & Olufsen and Versace. 'They might have been at risk if they hadn't

made such bold appointments. Geordie is clearly making Tatler more

literary with his Sunday Times contacts, while Lucy is going for the

modern elite. At this stage, Geordie's transformation looks more


Robson adds: 'Clearly, at the moment, it's about shoring up both their

positions very effectively and it's worked in that our clients still

clamour to be in those titles. They do have to keep on their toes,

however. Wallpaper*, for example, offers the chance to see fashion in a

lifestyle context and many of our clients worship at its altar, while

Vogue is still the absolute bible, so it doesn't do to assume your

market won't change.'


Editor: Geordie Greig

Publisher: Conde Nast

Circulation: ABC 82,071

(87 per cent are ABC1s)

Frequency: monthly

'I took over as editor in August last year and wanted to move the

magazine on a little - to make it more modern and eclectic and represent

the new interests of our readership.

'We are the premier society magazine and have the highest income per

reader of any magazine in the UK. That used to mean a traditional type

of audience, but this is no longer true. If you look at our May issue,

we've got a cover shoot with Heidi Klum and inside the magazine she is

posing with four Etonians, all stripped to the waist - which should stir

up a bit of controversy.

'There's an interview with four aristocrats who are setting up a stud

farm in Uzbekistan and we shot them naked in a sauna, the African diary

of Elton John's boyfriend, a new food column from Tom Parker-Bowles, who

writes brilliantly.

'One feature is on the hotel bachelors, who spend all year in hotels at

around pounds 150,000 a year and we interview society DJ Claude Shalle,

who earns pounds 50,000 a night DJing for society and celebrity dos.

This sort of content wouldn't have been in the magazine a few years


'Our readers are changing and so are we. We are cheekier, wittier and

reflect the concerns of our audience - so it's a global look at society,

travel, food, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

'We're almost where I want us to be but there's always room for

improvement. Nicky Haslem has just come on board as a contributing

editor and there's a new column starting in June called 'The One That

Got Away'. I don't want to say too much about it, but let's just say

it's not about fishing. Well, not in the rod and line sense.

'The PR industry totally gets it. We're getting more approaches with

more products than ever before. They're as excited as we are. But then,

when you're the only magazine that Charles Saatchi has delivered and

Tina Brown's favourite read, you can see why they'd get a bit carried



Editor: Lucy Yeoman

Publisher: National Magazine Company

Circulation: ABC 87,423 (85.4 per cent are ABC1s)

Frequency: monthly

'I joined last November. It's a bit spooky, because Harpers & Queen

merged on the day I was born so we are the same age.

'I came over from Tatler, where I had been deputy editor, although I did

get a job at Vogue in between but only stayed a day.

'When I joined Harpers I saw a strong magazine with a great team but one

that perhaps needed to get ready for the 21st century. All of the

magazine spoke with a strong voice, but I think sometimes the voices

were different. We had to decide who we were speaking to and how we were

going to speak to them.

'First off, our reader is a woman, whereas Tatler is more unisex. She's

well-off, but it's her attitude rather than her age that is important.

My first issue was the March issue and we carried a piece on Generation

Flex, the generation whose best friends can be 21 or 50. We got such a

great response from that.

'Our reader likes fashion, but knows what she likes. While Vogue has to

cover all fashion, we can act as a lens. We go to all the shows and see

the collections but we filter it down because we know what the reader

will want to wear. That's not to say we avoid fantasy. I like to think

we do style with some substance and our substance has a lot of


'We're getting in new writers too. Mariella Frostrup does our cinema

column, while Louis de Berniers and Blur bassist Alex James are both

contributing editors with big features coming up this summer.

'I think our readers want us to speak with authority rather than simply

repeating back to them what celebrities are doing, which some magazines


'Some in the PR industry have cottoned on really quickly, have spoken to

me and are offering stuff they wouldn't have bothered with before.

Others are taking time and still see us as old society rather than new

establishment, but they are coming around.'

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