Expensive and proud of it

Esquire editor Simon Tiffin feels a price hike and a free offer will continue the title's resurgence

We cost less than a packet of cigarettes - and - we don't give you cancer," says
Esquire editor Simon Tiffin, discussing his magazine's latest price hike. "That was going to my strapline." He then gets up from his chair and excuses himself: "I'm off to have a fag," he says. Tiffin, a likeable cove dressed in a blue corduroy suit, is joking about the strapline but the increase in cover price (by a whopping 55p) is very much a reality and a calculated risk by the
Esquire editor and his bosses at the National Magazine Company.

We cost less than a packet of cigarettes - and - we don't give you cancer," says Esquire editor Simon Tiffin, discussing his magazine's latest price hike. "That was going to my strapline." He then gets up from his chair and excuses himself: "I'm off to have a fag," he says. Tiffin, a likeable cove dressed in a blue corduroy suit, is joking about the strapline but the increase in cover price (by a whopping 55p) is very much a reality and a calculated risk by the Esquire editor and his bosses at the National Magazine Company.

The extra charge will help to fund a range of collectable cover mounts (April's will be a DVD of the 1965 classic film The Ipcress File, starring Michael Caine), but it is also intended to send out a signal to readers and the magazine industry that Esquire is a "premium product".

Tess Macleod-Smith, Nat Mags group publishing director, says: "There's definitely evidence in lots of markets that people are willing to pay more for something that's very good value. The reason we decided to launch this brand new strategy was we felt there was an opportunity to own the premium price end of the market."

So Esquire now sells for £3.95, markedly more expensive than its two most obvious rivals Condé Nast's GQ (£3.40) and Emap's Arena (£3.50).

Tiffin thinks that top-end men's magazines are "undervalued" and that - even at £3.95 - Esquire represents a "bloody good deal". He says: "It's also a way of saying, 'We are an upscale magazine and we are not ashamed.'"

Rivals might scoff that Tiffin's first choice of upscale cover mount - a DVD of Night of the Living Dead given away with the February edition - hardly had the whiff of Belgravia about it. But he argues that George Romero's 1968 film was the prototype for a genre that has recently spawned 28 Days Later and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead. "There's a whole zombie thing going on," he says.

Tiffin is also determined to put distance between Esquire and other men's titles simply by virtue of its content. For the past year or more, the men's market has been characterised by the emergence of the weekly sector in the shape of the hugely successful lads' titles Nuts and Zoo, with their diets of babes and japery.

Tiffin wants to capitalise on an Esquire tradition that (through its 70-year-old US edition) harks back to John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. So he commissions Scottish novelist Ian Rankin to profile Sean Connery.

This star-interviews-star routine is an Esquire hallmark, with comedian Stewart Lee (writer of Jerry Springer: The Opera) interviewing Johnny Vegas and then, next month, Alan Partridge co-creator Armando Iannucci questioning his hero Woody Allen.

There is a 30-page segment near the front of Esquire called "Manifesto", which Tiffin thinks best expresses what his publication is all about, offering a quirkiness and unpredictability not found elsewhere on the newsstand. This translates into a piece by a 33-year-old German journalist on what it's like to share a birthday with Adolf Hitler. Katja Hoffman writes: "I have vivid memories of my birthday of a couple of years ago. Not of celebrating with friends but of waiting at the Alexanderplatz underground station in Berlin. The sounds of the 'Sieg Heil!'s echoing through its tiled corridors and of my heart pounding with fear as I saw them marching towards me."

Another Manifesto feature highlights the British basketball players who have made it to the hallowed ground of the NBA (the latest being a lanky Sudanese refugee who had moved to Croydon before finding his true talent for hoops).

Tiffin thinks that Esquire has not always had the credit for its journalism that it deserves. It was he who commissioned Kimberly Fortier to write a ground-breaking (if rather cosy) profile of the then newly installed Tory leader Michael Howard, which would have attracted more attention if she was as famous then as she is now. "It was the first profile he had done," says Tiffin. He was irritated by later suggestions (wholly untrue, he says) that Kimberly had proposed an interview with David Blunkett.

Tiffin has a feature on Labour election supremo Alan Milburn in his May issue but says it is not for glossy magazine editors to nail their political colours to the mast. He is commendably careful not to engage in the sniping that has been a feature of upmarket men's magazines in the past year, with Dylan Jones of GQ and Anthony Noguera of Arena engaging in a slanging match, which Greg Gutfeld ( Maxim) entered into with some relish. Tiffin, who is a former editor of GQ Active, says he hasn't got time for that sort of thing - unlike his allotment in Fulham, which he tends every weekend, nurturing the organic vegetables that he takes to dinner parties as presents. He even declines to turn his nose up at the weekly men's market, seeing the circulation potential for his title in hundreds of thousands of young magazine readers whom he can one day persuade that "there's more on offer than Abi Titmuss". He says his readers are slightly older than those of his rivals, though at an average age of 34 they are considerably younger than the 48-year-old who is the heartland of the readership of American Esquire.

Tiffin himself is 40, and has a slightly fogeyish way about him. When asked why he has opted for a CD cover mount with the March issue rather than reaching out to downloaders, he does not try to suggest that the tracks could readily be transferred to his readers' iPods. Instead he says: "If we had a free £10 worth of downloads I would say, 'I can't be arsed. I don't know how to do it.' But if I see a CD, I would say, 'Oh good.CD! Like! Understand!'"

Tiffin is clearly doing something right. Esquire's latest ABC is 71,401, up 11.3 per cent from six months earlier. This is why Ms Macleod-Smith, who also has responsibility for women's title Harpers & Queen, feels confident enough to push on with a strategy that will include major investment to raise Esquire's profile in independent newsagents and, especially, in supermarkets.

Tiffin admits that Esquire might historically have baulked at being stocked by Tesco, as opposed to Waitrose. But Macleod-Smith says: "Tesco are really good at selling magazines. They have pride of place in that store. We support retailers that support magazines."

She says that retailers are also happy with Esquire's cover price - because it means they get a larger return too. She admits, though, that advertisers' concerns over Esquire's notorious use of bulk sales (only 63 per cent of circulation is active sales) will have to be heeded. She wants bulk sales to be driven down to 13,000 (although the contract to supply free copies to British Airways first-class customers will certainly be retained).

On a crowded newsstand, the success of Esquire's new strategy will be in persuading AB men to fork out for subscriptions, which are currently only at 5,500. She has set Tiffin the challenge of increasing the number of subs by 20 per cent every six months.

Tiffin doesn't seem fazed by any of these targets and the early signals (subs were up 24 per cent last ABC) indicate that he is up to the task. If not, there's always the allotment.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; Blackfriars; £25k

£25000 per annum + training: Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game