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

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

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

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £27000 per annum + Bonus: Sauce Recruitment: Within your role as Busi...

IT Graduate

£15 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are looking for an eager IT Graduate / Technology ...

Ad Director / Sales Director

£55 - 65k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London