Eve Pollard has made her career editing other people’s newspapers and magazines, including titles such as the Sunday Express and Elle US. Now Pollard has her own publishing outfit and is preparing for her second magazine launch. Amanda Wilkinson asks her what it is like on the other side of the desk
Eve Pollard, media matriarch, is tired. Yawning, the former editor of the Sunday Express tells of how she was up at the crack of dawn to judge the British Press Awards.
It has been more than five years since Pollard edited a national newspaper. Now in her 50s, she is in the midst of putting to bed the latest issue of Wedding Day, the first magazine to come out of her new venture Parkhill Publishing.
Pollard is also on the verge of launching her second title Aura, a women’s magazine aimed at readers over 30.
Smartly dressed in a pin-stripe beige dress and matching jacket, Pollard conducts a friendly tour of her offices on Grays Inn Road, wearing comfortable court shoes rather than the high stiletto heels that were her trademark while conquering the male-dominated world of national newspaper editors.
Parkhill marks a return for Pollard to her journalistic roots in magazines. After stints at Petticoat magazine working alongside Janet Street-Porter, now editor of the Independent on Sunday and Honey, Pollard moved to newspapers, becoming assistant editor on Sunday People before joining TV-am as a presenter and launching Elle in the US. A return to newspapers saw her become editor of the Sunday Mirror and then the Sunday Express before resigning in 1994 following a dispute over lack of investment which coincided with circulation decline.
With her head resting in her hand, Pollard explains that she did not originally intend to set up her own publishing business. Having produced some magazine dummies on her kitchen table, Pollard approached IPC. “I didn’t show them what I had,” she says. “I was just hoping that they might be interested and somehow I could fit in there.” That was not to be.
Having watched former IPC editor-in-chief Sally O’Sullivan break away to set up Cabal Communications, publisher of Real Homes and Front, Pollard decided to start her own magazine publishing company.
The two are unlikely to be competing for the same market, claims O’Sullivan, who adds: ” One of the nice things about Eve and myself is that in a million years I would never have chosen the bridal market and I am sure she would never have chosen Front.”
Pollard believes that technological advancements and an “entrepreneurial air about Britain today” makes it easier for journalists to set up their own businesses – as advertising copywriters have done for years.
While costs of entry have come down, making it possible for smaller companies to turn a profit, newcomers will still have to do battle with larger publishers and their deeper pockets. Pollard admits: “I think Sally and I are under no illusions that the big boys would love to kill us off.”
O’Sullivan has already found this out to her cost. She was forced to suspend plans to launch Crime Weekly magazine following IPC’s publication of Chat Crime and Passion.
Coincidentally or not, there has been a spate of publishing companies, including BBC Worldwide and Gruner & Jahr, which have revealed plans to launch new titles aimed at mature women within the past six months.
One of the challenges lying ahead for Pollard will be attracting advertisers to the over-30s market.
O’Sullivan says: “The problem with this gap in the market, although it is undoubtedly real, is that it is not supported by advertising spend.”
The cosmetic industry, she claims, prefers to spend money establishing brand loyalty from women in their 20s rather than persuading them to switch brands in later years.
But Pollard says: “More and more products are bent on keeping you young and the very people who will buy them are readers aged 35-plus. Remember they have much more disposable money than young people.”
Securing shelf-space when up against the larger publishing companies will also be a significant task. Even established player EMAP had to plough about £6m into the launch of its women’s magazine Red to achieve an acceptable circulation of 190,136 for the six months ending June 1998.
O’Sullivan says: “The single biggest hurdle is the route to market. One of the reasons we launched two mass market titles straight off was because we knew we had to have enough presence numerically at wholesale and newsstand to merit them taking notice of us.”
Unlike O’Sullivan’s tactics of price discounting, cover mounts and in-store promotion to gain awareness and prominent shelf display, Pollard is planning to employ different tactics for her more upmarket niche titles.
Pollard believes that a quality product should speak for itself and that cover mounts must offer readers something special: “Our readers probably have a very attractive make-up bag, so why should we give them a horrible plastic one? What we will be doing is trying to give them added value in other ways.”
But Julie Capstick, publisher of IPC’s Woman’s Journal, says: “They [cover mounts] are essential in my view. The important thing in this market is that they have to be of good quality. There’s no doubt about it, they are a successful sampling tool.”
An undisclosed budget has been set aside for Bates and Zenith to handle a multimedia advertising campaign for the launch of Aura on March 30.
Once-bitten-twice-shy. Pollard will not be seen gaining extra market awareness by appearing in a docusoap (having once featured in the BBC film Killer Bimbos on Fleet Street!) as O’Sullivan has done with BBC 2’s programme Trouble Between the Covers.
She says: “I was very kindly offered that facility by many TV companies and I decided not to.
“If the circulation of Front has gone up as Sally says it has, it may be that the old adage there’s no such thing as bad publicity is true.”
A consummate professional, Pollard is known for her skill at public relations, which is not such a surprise given that she is married to Sir Nicholas Lloyd, former editor of The Express and founder of PR company Brown Lloyd James. Despite lack of sleep, Pollard never speaks without careful consideration. Yet she is not afraid of letting her maternal side shine through and talks proudly about her daughter the TV presenter Claudia Winkleman, who is getting married in the summer. Despite an appearance in the first issue of Wedding Day, Pollard claims Winkleman, who owes her first break to Street-Porter’s Live TV!, has so far rejected all magazine offers.
Pollard does not envy her former colleague Street-Porter, claiming that editing a national newspaper is a “young person’s game” that “burns you out”. But with five more launches ahead, Pollard may feel in need of what she says is her own perfect cover mount – 30 minutes to herself.