There are so many titles covering entertainment and leisure that
even the Financial Times has a take on the latest Oasis album, as the
new editor of Time Out is very well aware.
Laura Lee Davies (known to everyone as Lee not Laura), has been at Time
Out since the days when City Limits was its only competitor. Now there
is a veritable swarm.
While newspapers’ main sections devote ever more pages to the arts,
entertainment, style and celebrity, their separate free listings titles,
such as the Guardian Guide and the Evening Standard’s Hot Tickets, are
eating into its circulation. Heat, Emap’s national listings guide, which
claims to be selling over 60,000 copies an issue, has had little effect,
Time Out sales have dropped from a high of 108,000 copies three years
ago to 98,839 for the first half of last year and 94,857 by the end of
it. The latest ABC figure, published last week, shows that the downward
trend continues to 91,501 copies (Jan-June 1999).
Davies, who started at the magazine as a freelance music listings
assistant working three days a week in 1987 and has never worked
anywhere else, says: ’It isn’t plummeting but it is steadily going
’We need to give people a reason to pay for our listings when they can
get others’ free,’ she states. ’Our listings are still the most
comprehensive and the best because they are generated in-house. We are
not buying in the same stuff as everyone else, we are on the phone
talking to clubs, finding out what is going on, not stuck in Canary
Wharf rewriting press releases.’
Davies’ predecessor Vicky Mayer, who stayed for just five months,
introduced new sections, such as the real lives profile London Lives,
and increased lifestyle, fashion and food coverage. Mayer and Davies are
very different animals. While Mayer came from the showbiz end of
publishing with experience of Options, TV Times, Inside Soap and TV
Week, Davies is a Time Out woman through to her marrow.
While Davies plans to build upon her predecessor’s changes with the
expansion of the dining, shopping and multi-media sections she is also
determined that the magazine reclaim the high ground as the insider’s
guide to the capital.
Davies wants to get into more issues-led journalism and less celebrity
promotional treadmill stuff. ’As the voice of London, we should be doing
things like questioning booking fees and looking at transport. Transport
can be terminally boring but absolutely everyone in London has an
opinion on it and you can cover it without sounding like New Civil
The magazine’s recent redesign is bedding in and Davies will expend a
lot of her not inconsiderable energy on making sure that everything
about its cover ’is right’. She points to the Easter edition adorned
with David Beckham in quasi-religious mode. ’The colours, the look, the
pose, everything was right. It is not the usual way of doing a
footballer at all, it is a very Time Out cover,’ she says. ’Everything
down to the flash about TV listings has got to be right.’
1987: Music listings assistant, Time Out
1998: Acting features editor, Time Out
1999: Editor, Time Out.