Media: Something about Sally

After a 10-year absence, Sally Brampton has been lured back to glossy magazines with the editorship of Red. But what are her plans for the title? Mary Braid reports

A little frisson of excitement has spread through the glamorous, shiny world of women's magazines this week with the announcement that Sally Brampton, who became a legend in the business after her successful launch of Elle in Britain is to return to magazines after a 10-year break.

Brampton has been lured back by Emap Elan, publisher of Elle, but a decade on, it is to edit Red, its more mature and considerably less glamorous sister title.

Brampton is shunning all interviews until she hits the hot seat next month, which will disappoint those eager to know what has enticed her back after she opted out of the rat race at the height of her success to combine writing - her fourth novel comes out in January - with motherhood. She returns to the fray a married woman - her husband Jonathan Powell, credited with bringing us Casualty and EastEnders, is currently the head of drama at Carlton Television - with a daughter, Molly, now seven.

What precisely she intends to do with Red fuels yet more speculation. The press release announcing her appointment restates Red's commitment to "middle youth", that more discerning, intelligent and previously neglected group of the thirtysomething women (who might have children and mortgages but still groove with the best of them at rock concerts) the magazine claimed to have discovered when it launched in January 1998.

But there are rumours that Brampton might be planning to take Red where few other women's magazines would dare to tread, deeper into so-called older women's territory. Red has already found an older niche - with its broad target band of 29-45 and ideal reader age of 35-38 - but some claim Brampton may take the "greying" further.

It is interesting speculation in a business where traditional assumptions that over 35 is too dowdy and over-the-hill to be worth catering for is now being challenged. Indeed the speculation may arise because Brampton, now an absolutely ancient 44, has written passionately and eloquently on the subject.

Red may be happy still to describe itself as "middle youth", but it's a term its new editor despises, along with the prejudices and attitudes that gave it life, and the publishers, who are forever claiming they want to launch "older" titles but still cannot bring themselves to utter the f-word (that's 40). Describing three friends, still stylish and glamorous in their forties and fifties wearing Gaultier, Helmut Lang and Joseph, Brampton argued, in an article in The Independent last December, that such women are neither "middle aged" nor "middle youth". She asked scathingly if there was ever a blander, more patronising phrase?

What was wrong with women's magazines aimed at the over-30s, she said, was that they had "No grit, no humour, no rigour, no bloody style", and were made for a generation of women ready to put its slippers on. "Elle and Marie Claire may be way too young for us, but magazines that tell us how to crochet a centrepiece for a table or disguise a thickening waist with clever accessories are just way too old," she says. She does not mention Red by name but says the "exciting" new magazines being launched into the middle youth market are no more than the same tired formula - frocks, cooking and gardening - smeared with a touch of gloss.

The woman who stayed at home "knocking up gourmet meals from left overs and wearing bright colours in clashing patterns" no longer exists, she says. Neither does middle age. Of her own age group, Brampton says: "our time will come".

Such views are worth considering now that Brampton has her own vehicle, already parked on the edge of "age", with which to test her theory. In her only statement, via the press release, she has said she believes Red reflects and challenges a new generation of smart, informed savvy women.

Ian Birch, Emap Elan's editor-in-chief, says Red's readership is defined more by attitude than age. He adds that Brampton feels there are more women out there that Red could reach, lingering in the twilight zone that follows the twentysomething titles full of frocks, make-up and multiple, earth-shattering orgasms.

In an echo of Brampton's own assessment, he says that Red recognises that 40 is what 30 used to be, and while a woman can be a grandmother at 42, she may also be having her first baby. He insists Brampton will be building on what Red has already achieved. "It will be a process of evolution not revolution," he says, pointing out that the new title's success would make it madness to "throw the baby out with the bath water".

It is true that Brampton is taking over a pretty healthy magazine from outgoing editor Kathryn Brown, who herself left to have a baby. Emap conducted exhaustive research before the launch, and spent a lot of money and went to extraordinary lengths to reach their target audience. Within weeks it had its 180,000 readers. Most have proved loyal. Almost two years on, circulation has slipped by only 3 per cent in a viciously competitive women's magazine market.

According to Gavin Stamp of Media Week, as many as a half the readers who initially bought Red are thought to have been fresh - ie not deserters from other women's magazines, though of course other magazines did suffer from Red's arrival.

It is precisely because women's glossies is such a competitive area that Red, despite its success cannot afford to be complacent. "It had a good launch, and found its niche," says Mr Stamp. "But the question is where does it go from here."

He is not confident that increased circulation will be won by targeting women over 40 more vigorously. Though he admits the age group is under exploited and that has more to do with a lack of ambition than past failures.

Other than her theories on age and segmentation of the women's market, what else will Brampton bring to Red? Birch claims that his new editor epitomises his readership. Glamorous, successful, smart, Sally Brampton is the woman Red wants to reach. And despite her long absence, he says Brampton, once his boss at Elle, is still "one of the world's most inspiring editors".

What industry insiders expect her to bring is a touch more glitz, glamour and excitement to a title which, though perceived as more substantial than its rivals, has become a touch worthy, and slightly dull. Glamour and substance - not a mix many, if any, of the women's titles can really boast. If she is successful, it may not be long before rival titles come round to Brampton's way of thinking on older women.

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players