When the Audit Bureau of Circulations released a lacklustre set of magazine circulation figures earlier this month, the media were quick to herald the demise of the women’s glossy. The Independent went as far as to call this downturn in circulation ‘the slow death of the magazine’. The Guardian blog described the declining sales as a ‘bloodbath’.
While women’s titles such as InStyle, New Woman and Glamour experienced drops in readership, Harper’s Bazaar has been steady, seemingly picking up readers from its struggling rivals along the way. Its circulation rose 0.3 per cent to 105,834 in the six months to 30 June. By contrast New Woman’s circulation fell by 45.3 per cent and InStyle’s by 9.3 per cent.
Now, with a glamorous rebrand under way, Harper’s Bazaar is moving in on the fashion territory of that revered grand dame of the magazine world, Vogue.
Playing the name game
The magazine was until last year known as Harper’s & Queen, and was renowned for chronicling the party-hopping adventures of London’s ladies-who-lunch. In March 2006, the ‘& Queen’ was dropped in favour of the ‘Bazaar’ already used across its 18 international editions. Now, the ‘Harper’s’ has been relegated to smaller print across the top of the cover, with the magazine’s new one-word title and stylish typography curiously reminiscent of a certain leading fashion glossy.
Indeed, the September issue, the first to incorporate the title’s new design, is intended to be a collector’s item. Each magazine has been decorated with 120 Swarovski crystals. Inside, the new Bazaar feels more like Vanity Fair than Tatler, its society image replaced by a social conscience – albeit a chic one. Both the magazine’s growing readership and the PROs pitching to its editorial team seem to approve.
‘It was a good thing to lose the ‘Lord and Lady’ and the Sloaney parties,’ says Amy Freeman, a consultant at Seventy Seven PR who has approached the magazine on behalf of clients including Perrier and Skoda. ‘I don’t want to read about that; I want to read about designers with ideas, and fashion, and real celebrities, not Heat magazine celebrities. It recognises that the socialites are no longer the opinion-formers. There are other people with more interesting things to say.’
These other people include the ‘40 under forty’ featured in September’s issue, with Kate Winslet, Lewis Hamilton and Amy Winehouse profiled as ‘Britain’s new power players’.
Alongside these celebrities are playwright Nina Raine, civil liberties activist Shami Chakrabarti and Brown cabinet minister Ed Miliband, none of whom are typical fashion magazine fodder.
‘Bazaar readers are looking for something more literary than Tatler,’ says a PRO at a top consumer agency. ‘The magazine is making more room for travel, literature, culture and fashion.’
Sophie Ransom, an associate director at Midas PR, concurs. Ransom has pitched literary clients to Bazaar, including up-and-coming British author Bella Pollen. ‘They’re interested in sophisticated fiction and non-fiction, and top of the range authors,’ says Ransom. ‘The reader is intelligent and cultured.’
Bazaar’s pursuit of this intellectual, high-net-worth female readership has seen the magazine overhaul not just its arts and culture pages, but its fashion section. This September’s issue includes a 15-page spread of new season must-haves chosen by staffers themselves, with tips on how to wear a trend. ‘We want to put the “edit” back into “editor”,’ Bazaar editor Lucy Yeomans explains. ‘We’re putting our money where our mouth is by actually wearing these clothes.’
Yeomans, editor of the title since 2000, does not see the rebrand as an attempt to corner Vogue’s fashion-forward market. ‘While we are putting a lot more emphasis on fashion than before, we are a very different proposition to Vogue,’ she says. ‘We want to be a one-stop shop for modern, intelligent women. We try to be really true to what real women wear – we ignore the lime green pop socks! Vogue has more of an obligation to its readership to cover that. We don’t have to be such a slave to fashion. We do quite a lot that Vogue doesn’t do.’
Vogue has a suitably quick response to this encroachment. ‘It is no threat to us as we dominate the market as far as the fashion decision-makers are concerned,’ says Vogue publisher Stephen Quinn. He cites a report produced this year by market researchers TNS. The survey found that 91 per cent of Bazaar readers see Vogue as the most influential fashion magazine. ‘Vogue is now way ahead of the game on circulation, reputation and market position,’ adds Quinn. ‘We use the top fashion photographers and first-class models.’
While Vogue remains way ahead of the competition according to the latest ABC circulation figures, Bazaar is keen to capitalise on its redesigned sections, especially in terms of PR
The right target
Yeomans does, however, warn against the scattergun approach often used by PR people. ‘I sometimes look at my email and there will be something about, say, a cheese-rolling festival, and I’ll think, oh my God! Really look at the magazine. Think about what the brand is and what section it might go into. And get it in as early as possible.’
Yeomans cites one pitch as a good example of this from a PRO working on a Moet & Chandon campaign. The champagne house was working with milliner Philip Treacy on a fashion project, and gave Bazaar six months’ notice. ‘We did an 18-page fashion shoot in New York and London,’ remembers Yeomans. ‘It was the most amazing project, and became a massive shoot, because we had so much lead time.’
As a rule, Yeomans suggests PROs take a six-week lead-time into account and make sure to contact the right section editor. ‘PROs are completely invaluable to us,’ adds Yeomans. ‘And the more a PRO gets to know the magazine, the better.’
Editor - Lucy Yeomans (Lucy's PA – Lizelle DeJager) T 020 7439 5171
Editorial assistant - Emily Butsellar T 020 7439 5566
Deputy editor - Harriet Green T 020 7439 5182
Travel editor - Catherine Fairweather T 020 7439 5560
Health & beauty director - Newby Hands T 020 7439 5565
Fashion & jewellery editor - Gaia Geddes T 020 74395186
Acting fashion features editor - Catherine Coulson T 020 7439 5091