Hippest title in the UK may be sold Flops may force sale of `The Face'

BRITAIN'S HIPPEST magazine, The Face, the arbiter of cool for almost 20 years, is believed to be up for sale after its creator, Nick Logan, saw the second of two recent magazine launches fail earlier this month.

Mr Logan, a publishing legend for his ability to spot trends and innovate with new titles, has bought out a 40 per cent share of his company, Wagadon, which was held by American publishing giant Conde Nast.

City analysts believe Mr Logan, who refuses to comment, plans to bundle his magazines and sell them off. Wagadon, which publishes The Face, Arena, Arena Homme Plus and Frank, was hit by its second failure in under a year this month when it announced that Frank, its monthly glossy, was laying off staff and would be printed just four times a year. When it was launched in 1997, Frank was supposed to take on the giants of the high-fashion magazine world like Vogue and had a sales target of 100,000 copies a month. Its final published sales as a monthly were just over 37,000 copies.

And last year Wagadon was hit when Deluxe, its attempt to get into the lads' magazine market, struck the rocks. The magazine eschewed bare flesh in favour of wit and intelligence and closed within a few months.

Wagadon's troubles date from a decision made in 1996 to expand the company into more mainstream publishing. Mr Logan had made his name by creating the UK's first style magazine, The Face, in May 1980. It was a magazine in tune with the decade of its birth, focusing on clothes, street style, music and design, while writing about popular culture with a highbrow sensibility.

After the success of The Face, Logan again showed his flair for innovation with Arena, the country's first high-fashion magazine for men. Before Arena arrived in 1986 the only magazines bought by men usually featured fish, model railways or naked women.

However, from the mid-Nineties, other publishers caught up with Wagadon and titles like FHM and Loaded drew away its readers. "The whole market has changed," says Laura James, head of press at the media buying agency New PHD. "Magazines are no longer works of art created by mavericks. They are mainstream products. Once, the only way for advertisers to talk to a certain type of style-conscious young man was through the pages of The Face. Now those men can be picked off in all sorts of places."

As rivals began competing with his existing magazines, Mr Logan decided to take them on with his first mainstream launches. However his small, creatively driven company was unable to make an impact.

In contrast, an interiors magazine turned down by Wagadon, Wallpaper, has become a style icon of the Nineties, and was sold by its creator for pounds 1m a few issues after its launch.

The Wagadon Stable

The Face

Britain's first real style magazine. It can be so hip it hurts but has never been a big seller. The Face reinvented itself after its Eighties heyday to ride the Nineties' wave of club culture but has lost sales in recent years.

Frank

Targeted at late-20s, 30-plus women, with high fashion and quirky articles which eschewed the usual relationship fodder. In its first six months, it made less than half its launch target of 100,000 sales. It is to become a quarterly.

Arena

Arena is the Vogue of the men's market, without the healthy sales figures. Once revolutionary, instead of benefiting from the boom in men's interest in their looks, Arena's sales have slipped as rivals emerged.

Arena Homme Plus

Not so much a magazine as an advertising supplement. This is the model Frank will follow, a quarterly publication for those with an obsessive interest in fashion. Filled almost completely with fashion ads and photography.

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