Sunday, 22 March 2015

UK aviation magazines - currently on the shelves - why is Key Publishing so dominant ?



Firstly, I am not 'anti-Key' - that would be silly. I have already purchased 'Flypast', 'Jets' and 'Aeroplane Icons' this month alone! But speaking personally I find it a little disappointing that Key Publishing now own just about every decent UK aviation magazine, especially after what happened to 'Aircraft' ('Classic Aircraft') and, of course, well before that, 'Air Enthusiast', the seminal Green/Swanborough quarterly that I devoured avidly as a teenager! The fact that Key now have a portfolio of five or six monthly aviation magazines appears from the 'outside' to mean too wide a 'spread' of articles/subjects for the average reader. For a good example of this, see the current issue of 'Aviation News' - a great mix of classic and modern, civil and military, but on the other hand, a number of these features could so easily have appeared in 'Combat Aircraft' or 'Air Forces Monthly', 'Jets' or even Air International - all Key titles. I won't buy Aviation News for one article, equally I probably won't buy either of the other three mags since the articles I'm interested in don't appear in the magazine I am more likely to purchase - bit of a 'lose lose' situation for the publisher as far my monthly tenner to spend on mags goes. Or is the publisher only expecting the 'average' aircraft enthusiast to just buy a handful of its titles? They surely can't be hoping that we all buy all five or six of them - just not possible. So this effectively means Key is producing titles no-one will buy (in comparative terms..).

 I would imagine on the other hand that some titles do better in different markets (eg 'Combat Aircraft' outsells all other magazines in the US..) I did however buy this month's 'Flypast' for Ian Black's RAF F-4 feature, where arguably it wouldn't ordinarily feature! But that's probably because 'Britain at War' looks much like Flypast nowadays! On the other hand, there are some 'positives'; it is good to see Ben Dunnell back (in charge at Aeroplane Monthly) - I loved 'Aircraft' and 'Classic Aircraft' - and Tim McLelland in charge at Aeroplane Icons. The F-4 'Icons' title looks very good indeed, based as it is on his excellent Classic Chevron/Ian Allan title. More power to his elbow. Unfortunately Airfix Model World (another Key title) also have an F-4 special on the shelves currently...

Stephen Bridgewater, editor of 'Jets' kindly responded to my concerns expressed on the 'Flypast Forum' concerning the future of all these various magazines under the same Key 'roof';

" ..Key purchased us last September. Personally I think it's a great thing. It was like going home for me as I worked on their 'Today's Pilot from 2000 to 2007. They're the market leaders and have the money to invest in the magazines, that other publishers do not. There's no cross over between Jets and other titles. I've only seen good progress so far..."

Interesting points; far from condemning certain titles to oblivion, Key is actually rescuing them; one assumes that Kelsey ('Aeroplane Monthly', 'Jets') and Ian Allan ('Classic Aircraft') sold out to Key since those particular titles were not making any money. It is difficult to argue that all these UK magazines are not good quality under Key's stewardship - they for the most part most assuredly are, if occasionally perhaps a little lacking in the more interesting and 'off-the-wall' subjects that you would see in, say, the French aviation magazine scene;  'Avions', 'Le Fana de l'Aviation', 'Aerojournal' and  'Airfan', four quality, independent (from each other), bi-monthly (for the most part) mags from France...not to mention the German 'Jet & Prop' which also covers classic and modern in full colour.


I do of course wish any aviation book and magazine publisher all the very best ( except perhaps Eagle Editions- bitter personal experience, a long story..) so I'll be watching closely to see how these titles evolve and develop over the coming months (years)...