Revolutions from Grub Street charts the evolution of Britain's popular magazine industry from its seventeenth century origins through to the modern digital age. Following the reforms engendered by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Grub Street area of London, which later transmuted into the cluster of venerable publishing houses centred on Fleet Street, spawned a vibrant culture of commercial writers and small-scale printing houses. Exploiting the commercial potential offered by improvements to the system of letterpress printing, and allied to a growing demand for popular forms of reading matter, during the course of the eighteenth century one of Britain's pioneering cultural industries began to take meaningful shape. Publishers of penny weeklies and sixpenny monthlies sought to capitalise on the opportunities that magazines, combining lively text with appealing illustrations, offered for the turning of a profit. The technological revolutions of the nineteenth century facilitated the emergence of a host of small and medium-sized printer-publishers whose magazine titles found a willing and growing audience ranging from Britain's semi-literate working classes through to its fashion-conscious ladies.
In 1881, the launch of George Newnes' highly innovative Tit-Bits magazine created a publishing sensation, ushering in the era of the modern, million-selling popular weekly. Newnes and his early collaborators Arthur Pearson and Alfred Harmsworth, went on to create a group of competing business enterprises that, during the twentieth century, emerged as colossal publishing houses employing thousands of mainly trade union-regulated workers. In the early 1960s these firms, together with Odhams Press, merged to create the basis of the modern magazine giant IPC. Practically a monopoly producer until the 1980s, IPC was convulsed thereafter by the dual revolutions of globalization and digitization, finding its magazines under commercial attack from all directions. Challenged first by EMAP, Natmags, and Conde Nast, by the 1990s IPC faced competition both from expanding European rivals, such as H. Bauer, and a variety of newly-formed agile domestic competitors who were able to successfully exploit the opportunities presented by desktop publishing and the world wide web.
In a narrative spanning over 300 years, Revolutions from Grub Street draws together a wide range of new and existing sources to provide the first comprehensive business history of magazine-making in Britain.
Grub Street will at last enable course leaders on magazine journalism and publishing courses to address a gaping hole in their syllabuses. Magforum From Tit-Bits in the 19th century to OK! In the 21st, mass-circulation consumer magazines have been a remarkably durable feature of the publishing scene, surviving far better than newspapers the periodic upheavals in technology and in distribution methods. Yet as new entry has become easier the structure of the industry, and the identity of the leading players, has been anything but stable. By describing in interesting detail how competitive forces have played out in this market, and providing a lively account of the role played by individual entrepreneurs, Cox and Mowatt have made a notable contribution to an under-researched aspect of British publishing history. Geoffrey Owen, former editor of the Financial Times This compelling study of the evolution of consumer magazine publishing is a milestone in business and economic history. Charting the evolution of the industry in Britain from its 17th century origins through to the digital age, this well-researched book provides new perspectives on the links between the strategies of leading publishing firms and the imperatives of technological progress and social change. By focusing on the business dynamics and structures, the authors should be congratulated on providing a refreshingly new perspective on an industry which has shaped markets and cultural attitudes. Geoffrey Jones, Harvard Business School A fascinating and long overdue account of the behind-the-scenes dynamics and changing business models of the UK magazine industry over the last 300 years. Any serious student of this key sector in the UK creative economy should read this book. Barry McIlheney, CEO, Professional Publishers Association
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 6th May 2014
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.8
Weight (kg): 0.64