Grazia girls like hard news and Jimmy Choos

With
her ‘phone ringing off the hook with people wanting to be in Grazia’,
Jane Bruton tells Alyson Fixter why she was always confident the weekly
glossy would succeed

JANE BRUTON tells me she
could step straight out of the door and point out 10 Grazia girls, just
like that. They’re everywhere, she says – young, sassy, career-minded
and highly fashion-conscious, but most of all, willing and eager to
soak up the glossy lifestyle on a weekly basis, with the disposable
income to pay for it.

“You know when you’ve got a hit for a magazine,” she says,
“because it’s just so easy to come up with ideas for it. I’ve worked on
projects where you’re scratching your head trying to work out what that
reader is like, but not with Grazia. I think a lot of people out there
feel that they are a Grazia girl.”

Admittedly, we are in the very
glossy Covent Garden Hotel on a Friday afternoon and there are a fair
number of Emap employees who work nearby clicking along outside the
windows, but Bruton’s point is that this market is not the fools’ gold
that publishers once believed it to be.

These Grazia girls, who
might read celeb gossip weeklies such as Heat and Now, but probably
wouldn’t openly read a copy on the Tube, are starting to turn Grazia
into the status symbol to have peeping out of a Marc Jacobs bag.

After
the failure of Riva magazine in the late 1980s – a flop that has begun
to assume mythical proportions – publishers have been reluctant to risk
another high-profile mistake in the glossy market.

When Emap
launched Grazia at ABC time six months ago, the usual rivals’ bitching
around the restaurants of the South Bank and the West End was tempered
with grudging respect and a genuine desire that this time it might work.

Now,
with Grazia’s first ABC due out next week, and all signs being that the
150,000-a-week target will be exceeded, it seems inevitable that other
publishers will try to cash in on the successful formula. While rumours
about IPC’s “Project Gloss”

turned out to be based on nothing but
an abandoned idea for an ad supplement to go in some of the publisher’s
monthly titles, Bruton expects that a rival will appear in the near
future.

The key to hooking in Grazia girl, according to Bruton,
who was poached from Eve for the launch, is “news and shoes”, a fairly
self-explanatory mix that runs from London bombings and family
bereavements through to the new skinny jeans and Jude and Sienna’s
relationship problems. There’s a bombardment of the trivial, serious,
glamorous, bitchy and heartfelt that hits the Grazia reader, whether
she’s sitting on a London train with her morning latte or in a suburban
office within daytrip distance of a Selfridges.

Since February,
Bruton has set out to make this mix bolder and more pacy, to the extent
that a recent issue tackled the important question of whether city
shorts might be a good look, alongside a story about a Kenyan
female-only village for domestic violence survivors. With journalists
from backgrounds as diverse as the News of the World, the Daily Mail
and The Observer, as well as – of course – the famed six former
magazine editors on board, the industry consensus is that what might
have been an unpalatable muddle is starting to make sense. The high-end
advertisers, which were always the target, are reportedly also coming
round, with Bruton claiming that, come September, the magazine will be
noticeably thicker with luxury ads.

“So many people were
sceptical about whether it would work,” says Bruton. “But we’ve proved
that it absolutely can and there’s a market. It’s been the holy grail
of publishing for such a long time, whether you can do an upmarket
weekly that’s aimed at glossy buyers. But I never believed it wouldn’t
work, maybe I couldn’t allow myself to.

“There was a lot of
debate at the beginning about what does make Grazia news: you’ve got
someone coming from a hard news background, and the fashion team are
going: ‘The new jeans have landed!’

and they’re going: ‘Is that news?’ and I’m saying: ‘Yes, that’s news too!’

“At
first I thought: should the harder news be here and should the frothier
fashion news be here? But in the past few issues we’ve mixed it up, and
it works.

“When the London bombings happened we were all on our
way to work and it was press day, so we had to get the magazine out,
but we also had to cover what had happened. We did it in a really
Grazia way – we contrasted the two amazing iconic pictures, one of
Trafalgar Square when the Olympics were announced and one of the bus
with the top blown off. For me it was very exciting, to have to make
that call.”

Bruton gets easily excited about her new magazine –
not surprising when it’s been such a high-profile success – and her
voice gets correspondingly squeaky in a very non-glossy manner. But
there’s also a touch of defensiveness that comes from being the subject
of a huge amount of industry speculation.

The ongoing debate has
been whether the title can sit on the fence comfortably between both
fashion and celebrity markets, without having eventually to pick one or
the other. Racked alongside gossip weeklies like Heat and Now, it’s
been suggested that the title has capitulated to its newsagent placing,
even with rumours that members of the fashion team are disgruntled by
the more celeb-oriented direction.

Bruton dismisses this as “absolute rubbish”.

“We’ve
put more fashion pages at the front, if you go and count them. We know
from research we’ve done that fashion is the biggest pull for this
magazine.

“Yes, we’re interested in celebrity, but in our own way
– it’s about the most glamorous people in the news this week. We’re
neither a celebrity nor a fashion magazine; we’re creating something
genuinely new and innovative.

“You know what?” she adds suddenly.
“It’s incredibly exhausting. We haven’t got any references. I can’t
call on my monthly background and say: ‘We’ll do it like this’, and
someone else can’t call on their weekly background. It’s got to be
something new and different; we’ve got to be constantly reinventing the
wheel.

“People say the magazine has changed a lot since launch, but it hasn’t changed as much as they think.

They’ve just got used to it. When something comes along that’s so new, sometimes the instinct is to reject it.”

If
the pre-ABC rumours are correct, Grazia is currently selling, per
month, more copies than Glamour, making it the biggest-selling glossy
in the market only six months after launch.

Bruton thinks it’s
unlikely the title will have affected any of the monthlies’ sales in
the comingABCs, but is “interested” in what happens in the period after
that.

“But according to market research, a quarter of our readers
are people who’d lapsed out of the mag market anyway,” she adds. “They
were people who were fed up of buying big, thick, boring glossies, so
we’ve brought people back into the market. I think we’ve changed
people’s buying patterns.”

So when did Bruton feel Grazia had really made it?

Without
hesitation, she says it was when Madonna’s people rang Emap’s people
and said she wanted to talk to them about her new book.

“She chose us,” says Bruton, getting excited again.

“She chose us. The showbiz team were on cloud nine, we were all on the ceiling. Magazine editors would kill for that interview.

“The
question was: ‘Will she only talk about the book?’ but she didn’t, she
gave us a great interview. I’d just put her on the cover for the next
week and it was too late to pull it, and I was thinking: ‘Oh no, I
can’t put her on the cover two weeks in a row!’ So we managed to hold
the interview for a week, but then I was thinking: ‘What if she gives
another interview in the meantime?’

“But it worked out and we’re the hot book now.

I’ve got my phone ringing off the hook with people wanting to be in Grazia.

“It’s
also about the timeframe – a star might quickly pop into town for the
première of a new movie, and we can grab five minutes with them and get
it in in time – no glossy can do that.

“We will never be covering Big Brother or interviewing Jordan, we would lose our credibility.

We’re not saying our readers aren’t interested in Big Brother, but they don’t want it in Grazia.”

Bruton
says her ultimate interview for the magazine would be Jennifer Aniston,
post-Brad, who has appeared on the cover several times, but without
that all-important access.

“We did get the first Dannii Minogue
interview since Kylie [became ill],” she adds, “and I’d love to get
Kylie, but our kind of celebrity can change from one week to the next
depending on what’s happening in people’s lives, so we’ll just keep
going until we get all of them… and then we’ll do them again.

“We’re delighted with how it’s gone so far, but we’re not going to stand still, we’re going to react to what happens out there.

“I’m
sure we’ll see another weekly in the not-toodistant future, which will
give us another push… I’m quite looking forward to it.”

As Bruton
heads back to the office for one more reinvention of the wheel before
the weekend, I walk towards Covent Garden tube station, trying to count
10 Grazia girls. Somehow I also manage to buy two pairs of shoes at
Office, a Pout lipgloss and a pair of Kate Moss-style sunglasses from
Urban Outfitters.

Better make that 11, then.

Which celebs make the grade as…

GRAZIA GIRLS?

Madonna: “Glossy magazine editors would kill for that interview”

Jennifer Aniston/Kylie Minogue: “The ultimate interviewees. But it can change from one week to the next depending on the news.”

Anna Friel: “The pictures came out and everyone was going: ‘Oh my God, she only had her baby three days ago and look at her!'”

Sienna Miller:
“She’s obviously in our territory, but I would have thought twice about
putting her on the cover until [the Jude Law split] happened. A lot of women liked looking at what she was wearing, but maybe they weren’t that interested in her emotionally.”

Victoria Beckham:
“She’s an interesting one, she’s worked really well for us – she sort
of crosses the line. I think people are still fascinated by what’s
going on in her life.”

Nadia from Big Brother: “A-list celebs don’t want to be in a magazine five pages away from an interview with her. We’re not saying our readers don’t pick up Heat and find out all about Big Brother, but they don’t want it in Grazia.”

Jordan: “We will never have Jordan in Grazia, we would lose all our credibility.”

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