Lisa Smosarski: magazines have stopped innovating

Stylist editor criticises lack of daring in UK women's magazines.

Stylist editor Lisa Smosarski has criticised the conservatism in sections of the UK magazine market and called for greater print innovation to help reinvigorate established print titles.

Smosarski said that newsstand women's magazines have converged in their content and "become quite nervous".

"Everyone's thinking about brand extension and digital platforms and thinking about magazines as multimedia brands - but actually it's innovation in the core titles and engagement with the reader which will help them," Smosarski said in an interview with Press Gazette.

"There's been a lot of focus on digital particularly, looking at different revenue streams and changing the business.

"But there is the bread and butter and magazines do remain at the heart of it, they have to lead and be exciting and invigorate the reader."

The former editor of More! helped launch Stylist as a free magazine in London last October as a sister title to free men's title Shortlist, which launched in 2007.

The launch was sandwiched between the closures of free London daily titles thelondonpaper and London Lite, but Smosarski said the publishers were able to make a success of the title as there were a number of shortcomings in the existing women's magazine market which it was able to exploit.

Stylist had a lunch ABC distribution of 410,000 instantly making it the fourth biggest women's mag by distribution and according to Smosarski, advertising is ahead of target and the title is on course to reach breakeven by the middle of year three.

"I can remember going back to my university talking to the students a few years ago and saying the only thing I would genuinely be scared of in this market is a brilliant free women's magazine," she said.

She told Press Gazette that lots of magazines were "playing it safe" and that the launch of Stylist provided the market which much needed innovation.

"People have been very negative about print over the last few years and very scared of the internet," she said.

"What's interesting for us is we are not resting on the old publishing model. That's possibly the problem for many people rather than the format that content is delivered."

She said readers have a "very intimate relationship" with print that the internet is unable to replicate and still made it a very appealing medium laced with potential.

"The problem is how that's put into people's hands. You've got multichannel TV, the internet, iPads, iPhones, all pushing content - you don't have to go to a newsstand to get that media.

She said magazine companies had been slow in changing the way that they reach customers.

"The newsstand is a tough place at the moment and there are huge amount of titles competing for women's attention," she said.

"What you've seen is a convergence of the content that's being offered. In the celebrity pack for instance it's really hard to differentiate between titles.

"People have got quite nervous and they did stop innovating...We said we are new, we're going to break the rules and be different. It's innovative titles that usually succeed."

Oliver Luft and Dominic Ponsford write for pressgazette.co.uk

The full interview with Lisa Smosarski can be found in this month's issue of Press Gazette magazine