Kampfner's 'eye-popping' relaunch for Statesman

New Statesman editor John Kampfner has described his magazine's imminent redesign as "the biggest thing to happen to the current affairs market in many years", promising "eye-popping" bigname columnists and an "exciting, bold, modern" makeover.

Kampfner, who took over editorship of the left-wing weekly a year ago, has launched a marketing and PR offensive in the run-up to the new-look issue on 9 June, but refuses to release any visuals except for the masthead.

The overhaul was masterminded by former Guardian chief designer Simon Esterson and partner Stephen Coates, who redesigned the New Scientist, and will be backed by a push for more subscriptions and space on newsstands.

Kampfner said: "When I started as editor I asked myself the question: how do you turn radical journalism into a must-read treat?

"What is going to hit the newsstand on 9 June is an answer to this question, because what we are doing is making the New Statesman a visually arresting magazine while at the same time being absolutely true to our traditions.

"In fact I would say we are more radical and more edgy and more provocative than we've ever been, but what we're trying to do now is to get the appearance of the magazine and the feel that people have when they read it to become a more enjoyable experience. A treat for the brain and the eye."

The magazine will come in a bigger size, with better quality paper and the option of greater pagination, with a new culture section and covers that Kampfner promised would be "striking".

Circulation has been falling slowly since 2003 and has been flat since Kampfner took over — but while aiming for "steady and consistent" growth following the redesign issue, he refused to name a target sale. The ABC figure for the last six months of 2005 was 24,740.

"We haven't done very much marketing for the last few months, basically in anticipation of this," he added, "so we expect a steady consistent rise in the second half of the year.

"The main aim of the first year was to consolidate, to get the editorial right, to prepare for the big change, and now the big change is in place, the second half of this year is going to be the big push."

He said that the new columnists would be "complementary" to the magazine's front half, with none of the existing columnists being axed, although some would be "redeployed".

Michael Portillo recently lost his job as arts correspondent at the magazine and was replaced by Rosie Millard.

Kampfner said: "I can't reveal any names, but they're all exciting.

Honestly, they're eye-popping."

Although he denied he was planning to poach readers from other publications, he said: "There's no shortage of fluff on Fleet Street, but there's a huge untapped market of people who either buy a newspaper but feel they do it under duress, or they've given up on the offline printed word and they want a more intelligent read.

"Between The Guardian, The Independent and so on there are half a million people who want to read radical, progressive journalism. They all come at it from different places, but they share certain views about the world. We still take a small proportion of those people and can take a lot more.

"Even more intriguingly there are a lot of people who are liberal in their mindset who don't read a single newspaper, or do not read a newspaper consistently.

"I think it's a very good time for the weekly in general, because the internet is eroding some of the raison d'etre of newspapers, and some newspapers have defended themselves online against it better than others.

"But the weekly occupies a very different space in people's lives, and as long as all of us in our different ways provide a read that people cannot get elsewhere, then we will all flourish."

A relaunch for the New Statesman website is planned for the autumn.

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