Media: Louisa Saunders on `Junior'

Readers of parenting magazines are a capitalist's dream. They are serial consumers, forced to make endless "essential" purchases, most of which almost immediately outlive their usefulness, only to need replacing by yet another gadget as baby grows.

The recent proliferation of baby mags is perhaps less a result of cosy Nineties nesting instincts than a sign that in the multi-million pound baby industry, as on the news-stand, competition is hot.

But what about the stuff between the ads? This varies widely in quality, but little in subject matter, which is where the new glossy Junior comes in, hoping to catch an affluent, slightly older reader who likes tasteful pictures and perhaps even has a job. Well, yes. That's me. So why does Junior's package - lavishly photographed, literately composed, and most definitely different - fall so wide of the mark?

Motherhood, like sex, is a great leveller. And parenting readers, like porn consumers, are seeking a fix, while suffering an almost total taste bypass. So putting together an up-market baby magazine is rather like trying to start an arty porn mag.

It sounds marvellous in theory: a tract on cranial osteopathy (that old chestnut); an essay on the joys of water as education tool; a rather pointless guide to employing a nanny, illustrated with a picture of uniformed Norland specimens.

Where are the birth stories (I Gave Birth On My Bathroom Floor)? The obsessions (Pregnant - what can I eat and exactly what size is my foetus?) And post-baby (How can I get some sleep?). In which ways is my toddler more advanced than others of her age, and which pushchair should I buy? Not just a sop to advertisers, this last one, though it must be said that advertisers are thin on the ground in Junior. Readers, too, I'll be bound. Those of us who want tasteful pictures will do as I do: hide a Mother & Baby inside their copy of Vogue.

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