Logan's Run now women enter the arena
Monday 03 March 1997
For almost three decades now, Nick Logan has been the golden boy of British magazine publishing. In the Seventies, he turned NME into the bible, discovered Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill, and then, as launch editor of Smash Hits, pioneered the modern music mag. With The Face, he invented the visual culture of the Eighties, became the voice of the rave generation and now - while scores of wannabes have folded - is at the centre of Swinging London. With Arena - which celebrated its 10th birthday last year- he took the men's magazine off the top shelf and launched the publishing sensation of the Nineties.
The media world waits with bated breath, therefore, as Logan prepares to launch a new magazine, one aimed at women, "25-35, intelligent women", he explains from his modish Clerkenwell office (former studio space, stripped floors, black leather sofas, etched glass) in his modish Clerkenwell clothes (sharp and grey and probably Comme des Garcons), "people who recognise you're trying to do something different, something with integrity and intelligence and independence of spirit - all the things we look for with the magazines we do at the moment ... it needs to excite the Guccis and the Pradas. At the same time it needs to deliver journalistically."
The launch date is September, the editor is the super-tough, super-glamorous Tina Gaudoin, 35 (ex-Harpers Bazaar, ex-American Vogue, ex-Harpers & Queen, most recently ex-Tatler), the circulation target 100,000-120,000 in the first year and the name to be decided. (Eve is one of many doing the rounds.)
Can Logan, at 50, do it again? He is low-key. "I don't want to talk it up too much," he says. "I just want to see what it can do." But then, as one former employee puts it: "Nick doesn't get excited about stuff." Indeed, it's hard to imagine the pale, monkish, unsmiling Logan, with his nervously blinking pale blue eyes, getting enthusiastic about anything.
In this case, however, Logan's self-effacement may be appropriate, for the new magazine is a dramatic departure. Where his previous magazines have all been first-of-kinds, the women's magazine market is notoriously crowded. "Women's magazines are the biggest, the most profitable, the real, grown-up league of magazines," he agrees. "We're not going to jump in the middle of it and say, we're a mainstream magazine alongside Marie Claire and Company, but also we don't want to knock at the door right at the bottom of the ladder."
Moreover, the niche he is attempting to exploit has been largely abandoned - with the arguable exception of Vogue - since Sally Brampton left Elle and Murdoch closed Mirabella, in 1991, in favour of the brash, vulgar and titillating, pioneered by Marie Claire. Indeed, Logan has seen the same thing happen in the men's market - his brother-in-law, Mike Soutar, edits the new, soaraway success-story, FHM. "Arena started a clutch of men's magazines which weren't on the top shelf," Logan concedes. "The way it's going, it's all going back where it started from, which is a great pity. It's now very brave to put out an issue of Arena with a man on the cover."
The other reason that success may not be guaranteed is an internal one: Logan's previous magazines have been, if not one-man-bands, then certainly family affairs, evolving from Logan's own interests, with almost no fanfare. The Face started with only me on the staff," recalls Logan, "and I was being paid by Emap because I was managing editor of Smash Hits. I was using my office there after six o'clock and on weekends to put together the magazine for the first year. When Arena started, it was half-a-dozen people all of whom were either on The Face or - like Neville Brody - freelance."
Today, though his wife of 30 years, Julie, is still the business manager and his son, Christian, works in accounts, and though his present trio of magazines (including the twice-yearly fashion magazine, Arena Homme Plus) are all edited by twenty-somethings who began as juniors on The Face, Logan and Tina Gaudoin will be appointing 15 to 20 new staff. As such, the potential to lose money increases exponentially, as does the damage inflicted by the personality clashes that have afflicted all Logan's magazines. ("He's a very difficult person to work for full-time," declares one former insider, a sentiment with which many others agree. "He's not a good people manager and lets situations develop.")
On the other hand, if anyone can succeed at breaking the women's magazine mould, Logan can. Creatively speaking, he is clearly a magazine visionary. "He'd go through every page after every issue," recalls Peter Howarth, former editor of Arena and now editor of Esquire, "every caption, every picture, every typeface, asking: What are you doing here? He is actually a magazine philosopher, always going back to first principles and asking really provocative questions."
Beyond this, Logan's creative skill is to combine iconoclastic cleverness with populism - or as one former staffer puts it more cynically: "On the one hand he wants to compete with the mainstream. On the other, he wants to be cool and groovy." (The current issue of Arena demonstrates this perfectly: a nymphette in underwear story is preceded by yet another interview with David Bowie.)
Moreover, though it looks effortless in retrospect, none of his previous ventures have been established without a struggle. "It's been a lot of really, really hard work," he declares. "Some people think it was an instant success but it was 18 months of absolute torment to get The Face working ... Over the 17 years we've spent most of the time firefighting various problems. The Face started to go off the boil a bit at the end of the Eighties. Then I got seriously ill [with cancer of the jaw for which he was successfully treated] and was off for about nine months. Then I came back to the Jason Donovan libel case." (About which he does not wish to comment.) Then the industry thought a middle-shelf men's mag was a joke.
Most importantly, despite his new-found wealth (Conde Nast bought 40 per cent of the company in 1990), his modern art collection and his modish suits, Logan remains firmly wedded to the principles of good housekeeping on which his little empire was founded and still lives in suburban almost- Essex and spends every lunchtime in the pub.
"I don't want personnel departments," he insists. "I don't want promotions departments. If someone sits in a room they'll want an assistant and then want another assistant and it won't be the same company. Suddenly all these departments open up and then you become like all the other publishers - weighed down with people spending your money, who just justify their jobs." (Logan learnt good housekeeping early, after his father - a self- taught quantity surveyor - went bankrupt; evicted from the family home, Logan left school at 15 with no qualifications.)
Indeed, good housekeeping is one of Logan's favourite subjects. "I could go to Conde Nast and get money for our women's magazine. I could go to a merchant bank, with our track record, and get a lot of money for it, but you get unrealistic budgets as a result of that. We want to do it on our own terms, which is, it's got to pay its way. It's not a free ride here for anybody. There's the rent to be paid. It focuses your mind. "
Will Logan succeed? In the words of Kathryn Flett, former editor of Arena: "He's yet to get it wrong"n
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