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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arena: it's the economy, stupid

The closure of magazines is inevitably accompanied by two kinds of commentaries. Those, generally written by people who have never read the magazine, seeking to prove that its passing says something about wider society. Then there are others, written by people who worked for the title, seeking to pretend that it all happened because those in power didn't take notice of their advice. A classic example of the latter attempts to explain the closure of men's magazine Arena on Media Guardian. I texted a man who used to have management responsibility for the magazine to tell him about it. "He says it's the nipples," I said. "No, it's the overheads," he retorted.

Arena had been limping along for the best part of ten years, squeezed between GQ's superior ability to sell upmarket advertising and FHM's greater popularity. It was also increasingly burdened by its inherited belief that it had to do everything in a Business Class fashion. When EMAP bought Wagadon they didn't want Arena but had to take it. Since then it has gone from one repositioning to another. EMAP and then Bauer wouldn't entertain any offers to sell it. They managed to find licensees to publish it overseas, which can't have made closing it any easier. The last copy I saw had Danny Cipriani on the cover. It appeared just as he was dropped by England.

Arena was the first men's magazine of the modern era but that alone doesn't guarantee anyone's survival. As they say in the Wild West, pioneers are often dead men with arrows in their backs.