Beware: 'Psychologies' editor can read your mind

'Psychologies' shows that a glossy doesn't just have to be about fashion and celebrity. Maureen Rice tells Ian Burrell how her fast-rising title exploited a gap in the market

With the greatest respect to a former editor of this newspaper, surely no eavesdropper to the office chatter at a women's magazine would expect to hear Andrew Marr identified by staff as the object of their fantasies?

And it cannot be your everyday women's magazine readers' poll of sexy men that throws up such names as Clive Anderson and Boris Johnson MP.

Though press reports show that the latter clearly has his admirers, he was sufficiently surprised by his identification as a modern-day sex symbol that he wrote to Maureen Rice, editor of Psychologies, to express his thanks. "I'm highly gratified if somewhat bemused... I wonder whether Professor Stephen Hawking came first?"

In fact, the winner of the magazine's Sexiest Brain competition was Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman, who didn't send a thank-you note. Perhaps Paxo failed to appreciate the magnitude of the accolade. The readers of Psychologies are rather a special group.

Bored by the celebrity and shopping content that obsesses much of the newsstands, they have turned their backs on traditional women's magazines. They will listen to Radio 4 and peruse the supplements of the quality press but they are hugely unimpressed by commercial television's attempts to gain the attentions of the female viewer. As such, they are a hard-to-reach group for advertisers, in spite of their relative affluence.

Psychologies magazine was one of the outstanding success stories of this month's biannual magazine circulation figures, posting a 20 per cent annual increase. But Rice knows that her monthly sale of 115,000 still leaves room for improvement in capturing the attentions of a sector of modern society that she believes is ignored by the rest of the media.

Those who bought this month's edition will have found articles advising them how handle difficult conversations, to learn from their mistakes and to discover their authentic selves. Pamela Stephenson Connolly writes on relationships, alongside regular contributors Derek Draper, the one-time New Labour spin doctor, and Oliver James, the clinical psychologist, journalist and author on the dangers of craving material wealth.

"Psychologies is not a fashion magazine and it's not about surface," says Rice. "There's no gossip, but a lot of stuff talking about personality, going beneath the surface and talking about people's inside lives."

Rice has had hurdles to overcome in selling the concept, not least as a result of the magazine's title, inherited from her French publisher Hachette Filipacchi, which has previously established a successful French product with the same name. "I think people don't really know what it means here," Rice says. "And it doesn't say 'women's magazine' either."

To some British women, the word "psychologies" conjures up another: "neurotic". Rice says: "I think people who don't like it are people who don't buy into the idea of the examined life. They are uncomfortable with the idea of it being legitimate for us to examine ourselves and try to understand ourselves better. There is perhaps a slightly old-fashioned British idea that it's somehow slightly self-indulgent or neurotic."

Psychologies, insists Rice and her publisher Jude Secombe, is a magazine for "fully functioning adults" not people with problems. "People say to me, 'Isn't it all about depression' when in fact it's an incredibly upbeat and positive magazine. Some of our readers might say it's too positive." The magazine's promise is the promise of personal change, that our lives and our relationships are ours to make. Changing your external circumstances is often most powerfully done by changing your internal circumstances."

Serious readers might also be inhibited by their suspicions of the sort of cod science that is increasingly prevalent on television lifestyle shows. "It's not physics, it's not even nutrition but there's some science involved in psychology and a lot of good sense," acknowledges Rice.

She points out that her features editor, Rebecca Alexander, has just completed her second psychology degree. Nonetheless, she accepts, there are some dodgy self-help books out there, particularly those American tracts that claim that willpower is all it takes to conquer the world.

"I hate that kind of stuff," says Rice. "The British reserve is melting but we are very sceptical about the cheesier end of self-help, and rightly so. It makes people into victims.

"If it's more about the writer than the reader, then I am not going near it. I don't like gurus."

The expertise of the likes of Alexander helps Psychologies staff identify quality material from what has become a vast money-spinning sector for the publishing industry. "There's some very bad work out there but we say to our readers that we will read all of them and bring you the good bits so you don't have to waste your time on those ghastly books."

Though Psychologies has tried to shun the cult of celebrity it has repeatedly devoted its covers to A-list stars - Meryl Streep is on the front of the current issue.

Rice rejects the idea that this undermines the magazine's ethos. "We are a personality magazine, we are about people." Of her big-name interviews, she says: "We are not necessarily looking for dirt - your affair or who you are dating - but maybe your feelings about relationships generally and what has and hasn't worked for you. It's not hagiography but it's a slightly more human approach to celebrities just as personalities. We are interested in interesting women."

So Streep is talking about the need for taking risks in life, not a cover line that other women's titles would have seized on. Sigourney Weaver was on the front of Psychologies' most successful issue and Rice notes that she has not graced the cover of other British women's magazines.

The Psychologies editor and her readers might be on to something very different but they are not a species apart. "Some of our readers will quite happily read a gossip mag," Rice says. "I know I will. I like a little gossip, personally. I would very happily read a fashion mag, I enjoy fashion."

Earlier in her career, Rice edited 19 magazine and Options but it was when she was a freelance journalist that she began charting what she saw as fundamental changes in British society. A 2005 cover story for The Observer magazine, headlined "Are the Kids All Right?" highlighted the unhappiness of teenagers and mirrored findings in the recent report by Unicef.

When, shortly afterwards, Hachette decided the time was right for a British version of Psychologies, she knew it was a magazine made for her. Media agencies and rival publishers were sceptical that such a concept could cross the Channel but the advertisers have followed the circulation figures.

In spite of the editorial content, premium car and beauty product manufacturers have no compunction in buying space in a title that has an 81 per cent ABC1 readership. The core of these are between 35-45 but some are in their twenties and some in their sixties. They read what used to be called the broadsheets - and the Daily Mail. "We call them latte activists, they are very clued up about organics and food miles and fair trade and they are very into that kind of stuff too," says Rice.

Her aim is to inspire her readers with "at least one lightbulb moment per month", though she accepts that some British women will never be plugged in to what she is offering.

"I think Psychologies is a very polarising proposition," she says. "It doesn't do the same things that other magazines do and that will be either attractive or repellent, depending on where you are coming from."

Sales don't lie: for an increasing proportion of British women, the Psychologies proposition is an attractive one.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SEO Executive

£24 - 28k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical SEO Executive to join one ...

Research Analyst / Insight Analyst

£25k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Research Analyst / Insight Analyst to joi...

RTB/ Programmatic Campaign Manager

35,000 - 50,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: Our client is the world's largest...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence