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Filament magazine – for the female gaze

Filament Magazine – “the thinking woman’s crumpet” – has launched its debut issue. A 72 page quarterly, it contains erotica aimed at the female gaze. Some might consider it a brave time to launch a new print magazine given the current economics; can it succeed?

(Disclosure: The editor – Suraya Singh – and I are former flatmates and I am part of a small feature (fully clothed, I might add) in the first issue)

The aim behind the magazine is to right a few perceived imbalances in the way men and women are represented in the media. Both male and female orientated magazines focus on the female appearance – women are told how to improve their looks; men are invited to admire them. In addition to displaying images of men in various scenarios and states of undress, Filament also contains intelligent and well-thought out articles that seek to inform and inspire.

Filament has done well with media coverage in the build up to its launch. Links and images to the press can be found on the Filament LiveJournal page, but to give a few examples:

  • The Independent has a nice article on it
  • It was featured on Radio 1’s Newsbeat
  • Small snippets in both the Evening Standard and London Paper
  • A negative article in the Daily Mail (163 comments and counting) – which can only help.

It was also featured on The Wright Stuff, where one contributor said Suraya “should be shot” for her research. Apparently (I haven’t seen the show), voxpops of women asked about the magazine were largely negative.

This is highly disingenuous. The market for female-orientated erotica is a niche one, and the aesthetic of the magazine (such as the gothic-esque typeface and a cover picture with religious undertones) only reinforces that the title won’t be troubling OK! for sales anytime soon. The average woman on the street is not the target market.

But what of the research? Outside of plenty of desk research, one of the main avenues of primary research to gather public opinion was through this LiveJournal community. This is a self-selecting group of people within a website declining in popularity, but does this matter? Filament’s primary aim should be identifying those that could be interested in such a title, and then understanding their desires and dislikes in detail. The community, to a degree, does this. Only when these have been catered for, the target audience can be expanded with more diverse content and communications.

Can Filament succeed? It will undoubtedly be tough. The magazine is available for £7 through subscription only, and so it will never be able to attract the casual reader. A lot of work needs to go into raising the profile among the target market and then convincing them to not only purchase the magazine but also to then promote it among their peers. As nice as mainstream media coverage is (in some ways it “legitimises” the title as a serious venture), it is the specialist blogs, fanzines and titles where the bulk of the effort should be concentrated, and where success or failure will ultimately be determined. Though as Alan Sugar might say, you only need to ensure your costs are lower than your revenue in order to succeed.

Filament has made a strong start, and I hope it does succeed. One potential criticism of the title could be that – with articles on topics such as feminism and pornography – it takes itself too seriously. But I can attest from the launch party – with burlesque, chinese pole, life-drawing and a sense of fun – that this certainly isn’t the case


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