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Can print magazine brands come back from the dead?

History tends to suggest that once the plug has been pulled on a print magazine brand, no matter how iconic its, it is the end of the road, or if they are lucky an afterlife as a digital or web version. Charlotte Ricca outlines the unlikely revival of The Face, and asks whether we might see other magazine brands return.

 

The Face ()

 

Nearly three decades after it first hit the newsstand The Face is back in print this month.

The style bible of the 80s was responsible for launching the careers of some of the biggest faces in fashion, including Kate Moss, fashion designer Alexander McQueen, and photographer David LaChapelle. The Face was arguably never a mass-market publication, and at the height of its success sold over 70,000 issues each month. But that was part of its appeal – it catered for the cool crowd, not the mass market.

Now, 15 years after Emap shut it down, 100,000 copies of the magazine have been printed, with four different covers featuring Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Rosalía and Tyler the Creator.

The brand behind the relaunch is Wasted Talent, who publishes Mixmag and Kerrang! The Face website was launched in April and the quarterly magazine went on sale on Friday 6 September.

So why a print magazine? Managing director Dan Flower explained: “The web and social is economy, the magazine is first-class,” he said. “We hate this whole print is dead vibe, because it’s not.”

Just as vinyl is enjoying a current revival, there’s a lot of evidence now to show that print is seen as a luxury product, with emphasis placed on high production values and quality, long-form content. It’s the total antithesis to the throwaway culture of social media.

“There’s a whole generation of kids with a real passion for magazines,” said brand director Jason Gonsalves. “And unlike a lot of other stuff out there, which is basically a big Instagram, Stuart [Brumfitt, the new editor)] has put together a magazine that you want to read.”  

 

More than nostalgia

From it’s very first edition in 1980, The Face set the bar high, with insightful, edgy features and eye-catching covers. Over the years it has inspired a number of other hip titles, such as iD, Dazed & Confused and more recently, The Gentlewoman, Monocle, Huck and Kinfolk. So how will the 2019 iteration recapture its former glory?

One thing Brumfitt is clear about is The Face won’t rely on its original audience to sell copies. No doubt a generation of former ravers will welcome its relaunch with open arms and smiley faces, but the magazine is aimed at “culturally savvy and creative twentysomethings”.

“We didn’t want it to be a nostalgia trip,” Brumfitt said. “We wanted it to be very now.”

Whether millenials will buy a print magazine that their parents cherished remains to be seem. After all, why not just launch a new brand? Wasted Talent knows that a new brand won’t get anywhere near the level of publicity and interest that reviving a much loved old brand does. Can the magazine pivot away from the Gen Xers on a nostalgia trip and chime with youngsters who know little about out its heritage - that remains to be seen.

The Face mark two certainly fits within the paradigm of modern print magazine publishing, where brands curate quality content in order to engage with a small, but perfectly formed audience. At a time where one influencer carries more cred than one hundred customers, Wasted Talent is hoping to attract the right kind of reader in order to monetise its new brand.

Like other next generation magazines, The Face won’t depend on selling ad pages to make money. The title plans to diversify its revenue with a brand consultant arm, working with the likes of Adidas, The North Face and Gucci. There is also an online store, plus a push into video and audio content in order to attract more online advertisers.

All this begs the question, what other titles could we see brought back from the publishing graveyard? Despite, Brumitt’s protestations, nostalgia is big business, with numerous eighties bands reforming and TV shows and old movies being remade for a modern audience. So why can’t the same thing happen to much-loved magazines?

Is now the time for much missed titles to be given a second lease of life? David Hepworth and Mark Ellens’s The Word closed in 2010 and is sorely missed by its core audience of literary minded music loving male fortysomethings. It is a title that could clearly work in a print form today.

What about Dazed & Confused, Jack and Jocks and Nerds, could they return from the dead? Stranger things have happened. It is clear though that publishers will be watching the fortunes of the revived version of The Face with real interest.

 

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