Pants principle takes Eve from underdog to serious player

Trinny and Susannah hold-it-all-in pants at the bottom of their drawer that they would dredge out for special occasions, but their knickers of choice at the moment would be the ‘boy short'. They'd be very glad that a proper pant has come back into fashion. G-strings are all very well, but I don't care how much people protest that they're comfy."

Eve editor Sara Cremer is talking pants, specifically her readers' pants.

She once told a careers conference that an editor should know her readership down to their underwear, so the question needed asking. As it happens, the boy short — the style of pants favoured by women in Special K adverts — is as good an analogy as any of how Eve works in the market: it is neither an impractical pair of skimpy knickers, nor so unsexy that only your granny would wear it.

Similarly, it was previously thought the monthly magazines were either too young or too old for 30-somethings.

Eve, like its grown-up glossy competitors, is having a moment. Like the frivolous singletons of Sex & The City giving way to the soccer moms of Desperate Housewives, the flirty, frothy glossy has been overshadowed by its older sister, the practically perfect 30-something.

Coverlines on ‘how to get the best orgasm £25 can buy' and ‘100 per cent naked celebrities' have lost the spotlight to ‘the £59 dress you'll wear all summer' and ‘Model mum Heidi Klum'.

The glossy has officially grown up, and managed to glean a readership once thought too busy to bother.

The 30-something monthly market is looking particularly buoyant against the backdrop of admittedly much higher — but falling — sales for the younger monthlies, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.

In the latest ABCs, Hachette's Red enjoyed its highest ever sales figure of 221,940, up 1.3 per cent, and relative newcomer Condé Nast's Easy Living rose 17 per cent to 200,083.

There have been some casualties.

Natmags' She and Burda's Real suffered declines in sale, while perennial favourite Good Housekeeping was down 7.5 per cent, but still shifts 441,151 copies.

Eve, bought by Haymarket from the BBC in 2004, was at 171,454 sales a month, up 5.8 per cent, its eighth successive period-on-period increase.

So why are the newer glossies proving so popular? Cremer says Eve started in 2000 on the premise that there were a lot of women lost in magazine land having grown out of the younger women titles.

"They wanted a magazine, but there just wasn't one for them. What's happened in the past 12 months is that it's convinced more women in their 30s and older that there has been something out there for them."

The £2m launch of Eve in August 2000 promised to "bust the clichés" of the women's market and tempt women back to magazines. It was BBC Worldwide's biggest magazine investment, and edited by Gill Hudson, who came from Dennis's Maxim with a brief to add some of the excitement of the lads' mags to a staid women's sector.

At the time, neither skinny model nor celebrity were to grace Eve's cover.

The mix was to be eclectic, featuring architecture as well as agony aunts, and the fashion pages subjected to an injection of humour.

But it had to contend with a string of new launches in the sector, as well as massive marketing spend on (at the time) Emap's Red and Natmags' She, and reported a debut ABC of 131,369 a year later, just about on target.

A redesign under its second editor, Jane Bruton, brought in extended travel, home and food coverage as well as a dedicated sports page, which has since gone the way of other quirks such as current affairs coverage, as Eve became more mainstream.

Mix of men's and women's glossies Despite a low of fewer than 120,000 sales in 2002, the title has since picked up circulation. Bruton left at the end of 2004 to launch Grazia, and the BBC, following Mark Thompson's shake-up of the corporation, sold Eve to Haymarket in January 2005. Cremer had only been at the title for one week before the sale went through.

Like Hudson, Cremer's experience came from a mix of men's and women's glossies. After a stint on the Rhondda Leader, she started in magazines as promotions editor of FHM in 1993, when it still featured the likes of Angus Deayton on its cover instead of highstreet honeys.

A move to Men's Health saw her rise to deputy editor before a shift into the women's market and the editorship of New Woman, when Jo Elvin left to launch Glamour. The men's market was a great training ground, because it was unchartered territory, says Cremer.

"The Loaded phenomenon happened about 18 months into me being on FHM. Loaded really took off and revolutionised the men's market. There were no givens. You were having to work out all the time what would sell."

What sells now in the women's glossies are celebrity covers and covermounts.

Marie Claire's US editor Joanna Coles ousted "girly goo" and fawning celebrity cover stories from the magazine in July, but this isn't a fashion that's likely to catch on over here.

Cremer says you'd be "very brave" not to put celebrities on the front, and anyway "celebrities are a major yardstick, and people measure their lives against them in all markets".

Despite the homogenisation in the sector, Eve still has a number of quirky strings to its bow, such as EveCars.com, which uses the expertise from Haymarket stablemate What Car? to provide advice on buying motors.

Cremer calls it "the equivalent of having a bloke come out with you and kick the tyres. You don't know why they do that, but importantly they tell you what you ought to be paying for it".

There's a readers' editors panel that reviews the latest face creams, and occasionally carves out a feature for the magazine. One of those, where the title asked readers if they had secret escape plans, was dreamt up from staring out of the BBC offices to the dreary sight of the Westway flyover.

It prompted a deluge of mail from women with secret bank accounts or who refused to change their name in marriage in case they had to make a quick getaway. There's Eve Educates, a series of workshops for ambitious women, on topics from business startups to flower arranging.

"Eve is inspirational rather than aspirational," says Cremer. "Our readers do stuff, they don't just dream of it, and we provide them with the tools to do that."

Where do Cremer's Eve ambitions lie?

"I'd would really like to see Eve become number one in our market," she says.

"It's fought its way up from being a plucky underdog to be a player, and [there are] people who've put tremendous effort into it, the editors before me, Gill Hudson and Jane Bruton. I'm just carrying on what they started."

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