October 29, 2005
I notice Top Gear NZ has its latest cover—a repeat of the UK’s September 2005 one. I realize that this is commonplace amongst licensed magazines: Elle, for example, would always have covers resurface around the world. It’s simple in that case: the weekly French edition has more than enough to share with the monthlies everywhere else. And we do it with Lucire and its overseas’ editions.
It’s got me wondering about magazine brands and where their limits really lie. In the cases of Elle and Lucire, these respective editions go (usually) into places with different languages, and unless one is incredibly well travelled, the chances of seeing the same cover are minimal. In Top Gear’s case, the covers have both been seen in New Zealand. I got a feeling of déjà vu, which is natural, and I’m sure others would, too. Can Jones Publishing, the New Zealand licensee, get away with it?
The presence of two Harper’s Bazaars on the newsstands here with the same cover is a useful comparison. Both the US and the Australian editions feature Demi Moore. Yet the latter is an established licensed edition from a Hearst–Packer joint venture, and has been around for around eight or nine years. It looks grander, larger. It has established itself with distinct editorial that owes very little to the American original.
Locally, this Top Gear is the second issue, with nothing established other than the brand. There is no New Zealand equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson; James May, whom I have been reading since his ‘England Made Me’ column many moons ago, has his say alongside the tousled terror in the Kiwi edition. Some stories are repeated from Britain.
Given that there is hardly a motoring journo who isn’t a sycophant here (there are exceptions), Top Gear NZ’s strongest asset is its brand, not unique content. Those converted to the brand may have picked up that British edition back in September. I am not sure if they will pay slightly less for an old cover, because we all judge the magazine by it. A two-month-old seen-before cover suggests old news. There’s not a lot a brand can do to cover for the loss of newness in this game.
Julian Andrews of Jones knows more about New Zealand consumer publishing than I do, so he must have his reasons as the publisher. I’ve written to ask why—and I am sure I am missing something in the rationale. I’ll follow up when I hear from him. permalink
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