Thursday, 3 March 2011

10 years of Glamour

Whilst on my magazine journalism course, I've been looking at my mag-habit a completely different way. We're told in lectures that women are largely impulse buyers, while men are more brand loyal, but I have basically bought the same magazines for years. A couple of monthlies, a couple of trashy weeklies, and the odd giant, luxurious Vogue or Vanity Fair for fun. The only one I buy practically every month is Glamour, which today celebrated 10 years on our newsstands.

Glamour was launched in 2001 as the smaller-sized magazine "that fits in with your life, as well as your handbag." I'm trying to work out from which point I started reading (I was 14 in 2001), but when I look at the first ever issue, currently published in PDF format on their Facebook page, I feel like I remember the cover. Maybe I had it or my elder sister did. I do know I've been reading it many years before I hit their market age range of 25-35.

So what's so great about Glamour? It has a real mix of subject matter and feature treatments - not Cosmo-sexpert, not Elle or Vogue-fashionista, but friends, single life, relationships, style, beauty, health and culture. I just flicked through that first issue and it was a really good read. Most of the celebrities featured have remained high-profile; Kate Winslet was their coverstar as a fresh-faced new mum, Gwyneth Paltrow's wardrobe was the most desirable and Victoria Beckham wrote a style feature.

It had tips on entertaining, timeless beauty, great reads (I think they would be wise to go back and extend their books content) shocking real-life features and fabulous celebrity access. I still read it every month, but I do think Glamour's upmarket content has slipped from that glossy first go. There used to be a layer of celebs who were Glamour-worthy; Rachel Weisz, Liv Tyler, Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Natalie Portman all graced the cover in its first three years. Now, you're more likely to find Katie Price, Lily Allen and even Abbey Clancy staring back at you. Either the 'Glamour woman' has changed, or the team's budget and access has.

Obviously their sales figures must look favourably on La Price, or she wouldn't have popped up multiple times, but putting her there seriously downgraded the escapism and luxury factor for me. Similarly, Abbey Clancey's recent cover was a tie in with The Great British Hairdresser, on which editor Jo Elvin appears. It was trying to make a case for Abbey being misunderstood by the press, and really being a very sweet girl, but I think it missed the mark on what readers so love about Glamour.

Elvin has steered the ship since the launch (and writes a practically perfect first editor's letter in Issue 1.) In a recent lecture, Haymarket publishing veteran Mel Nicholls used Glamour as an example of brilliantly written and designed coverlines. They use bold sans-serif font, different sizes and colours, and highlight numbers, key words and hot lists. They especially know when to push a great offer or competition.

Features wise, Glamour isn't afraid to throw in something a bit political, controversial or uncomfortable. Recently they ran a feature about women in their twenties and thirties getting sick of hearing about other peoples' babies, which I'm sure got a lot of flack. But the team are not afraid of stirring up debate; post-Twitter, I even had a little clash with Elvin last year over their Women of the Year choices. She's very Twitter-active and often responds to reader comments.

I've also done work experience at Glamour, and the team were very lovely (and truly glamorous) in person. It's successful for a reason, and that reason is a good sense of consistency, reader needs and marketing genius. I love their little franchises and would miss them if they went: Hey, it's Ok, the witty lists on the last page, and the more recent Celia Walden lunch interview. I think Glamour deserves some serious applause at its birthday celebrations tonight. I think it's the cream of women's mags, and manages to be universally appealing without trying to please all the people all the time. Bravo.

Here are some of my favourite covers from the last decade (often the month they stopped dialling Britney and took some risks):

November 2004: Renee goes brunette.
The focus is unusually on fair skin and piercing eyes.

July 2003: Charlie's Angels. Glamour
breaks with industry tradition and triples
their cover star. Smokin'.

December 2008: Leona isn't the most exciting of celebrities, but as well as being one of their few mixed-race cover stars, it also looks like they've let her be herself. I also have to give them snaps for putting a cosy jumper on the cover in winter, rather than a skimpy party dress (see also Charlotte Church last December.)

December 2009: Leighton Meester
They also recently put her co-star Blake Lively on the cover, but
this shows a nod to the future of glamorous Hollywood, as a
new generation comes up through the ranks. More Blair and
less Jordan, please!