Being labelled London-centric is one of the great curses of the magazine world.
But trying to escape the "English" tag by launching separate editions designed to appeal to the Scots, Welsh and Irish is not in itself an automatic passport to fatter ad revenues.
Many agencies and publishing figures question whether the cost of putting out specific regional editions can be justified when the commercial returns seem so uncertain.
The issue was brought into sharp focus last week with The National Magazine Company launching a Scottish version of women's glossy She as a trial for the next six months. As well as a customised cover, it will include tailored features and diary pages.
Cynics might suggest that She has nothing to lose by taking the gamble – after all the monthly languished at number 17 in the women's lifestyle sector in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, with an average circulation of 185,000.
Justine Southall, NatMags group publishing director for the young women's group of titles, is confident that She can not only grow its readership north of the border, but hopefully make more money from advertising as well.
But Clive Backler, an account director at Feather Brooksbank in Edinburgh, is sceptical. "It wouldn't jump out to me as an obvious success," he says.
Backler says the type of reader can be key, as far as commercial appeal is concerned – adding that a well-established "niche" title targeting, for example, a few hundred architects with high spending power would be more attractive to advertisers than a publication such as She, whose "broader demographic" is already being reached just as effectively through newspapers like the Daily Record or the Herald.
It is not only the latest She venture that is being regarded with skepticism by some media agencies. There are doubts about the whole concept of producing separate editions for the nations or regions.
One agency executive puts it candidly: "There is not an unlimited pot of gold out there.
And it's doubtful that there is enough big money to splash out on ads designed to appeal only to readers in Scotland or Wales, for example."
He adds: "You can get any number of people to agree that being regarded as London-centric or too focused on England and the South East is a ‘bad thing' for a title. But it's quite another proposition to actually make an appeal to a specific part of the UK a paying proposition.
"Most publishers just want to make a profit and, let's face it, the spending money's mostly in South-East England. Isn't it better to address regional readers within the context of a single edition with nationwide appeal?"
Mad in Merthyr
It is a move that was contemplated – and dismissed – by IPC during the gestation of its new real life weekly Pick Me Up.
They toyed with the idea of Welsh and Scottish editions, before dismissing it. Writing in Media Week last month, IPC editorial director Mike Soutar described the idea of Welsh Life as "ruinous and unfeasable".
He said: "We got rather excited about the idea. Bonkers idea, I know.
But you should have seen how mad they went for it in Merthyr Tydfil."
The experience of Reed Business Information's Doctor, which produced Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland editions of the magazine from the mid- 1990s until 2002, serves as a case study for others thinking of going down the same route.
Each edition changed its front and back pages, plus a page of reviews inside. It came at a time when the NHS was being devolved and there was plenty of regional material to write about.
Phil Johnson, who edited the publication from 1997 until 2003 when he moved over to become editor of rival medical weekly Pulse, remembers Doctor's experiment with national editions as a period of mixed fortunes.
"The objective was primarily to try to increase readership in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where the evidence was that all magazines were less well read in those areas than they were in England," Johnson says.
"But there was also the belief that there might be a possibility of creating opportunities for advertisers to have regional campaigns. Now that never really took off. We never succeeded, I don't think, in proving the regional case for advertising.
There wasn't the demand there to advertise regionally."
Readership levels did soar in the regions, but only for a limited period, as Johnson remembers.
Doctor overtook its rivals north of the border.
"We had great success in terms of readership and we became the best-read magazine – we went from third to first place in Scotland and, I think, in Wales and Northern Ireland as well,"
"What we needed to do was to increase the regional content of the magazine. But we were constrained from doing that because there was such a pressure on the commercial side."
Then the pharmaceutical advertising market had one of its downturns and a huge national story concerning GP contracts broke, which dwarfed regional issues.
"The agenda, which had been very focused regionally as devolution took hold, switched back to a national agenda,"
Johnson says. "The readership gains we had achieved began to slip away.
Ultimately, we couldn't stand still. We either had to do it more wholeheartedly or stop altogether. The decision was taken to stop – largely because of cost. There was no direct return in the shape of regional advertising.
"Because the populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland add up to only about 15% of the total population, even a 10% rise in readership in Scotland only converts to a 1% rise in the UK readership.
And that's the currency in this market.
"You have to move readership in the regions a really long way to have any affect at all on your national score and that's what dominates the buying of national advertising."
Johnson feels there is a strong editorial case for "going local" – particularly in Scotland, with its devolved parliamentary status, although he is less certain doing the same in Wales, which is less politically independent and where the population is smaller.
And he believes publications should guard against being too "London-centric".
But when it comes to establishing separate editions for different parts of the UK – as distinct from making sure a magazine has a broad national appeal – he says there are commercial obstacles.
Steve Goodman, group press director at MediaCom, shares many of these views. "Too much media is London-centric – certainly it's biased toward the South," Goodman says.
But he says financial pressures are frequently a big stumbling block in the path of setting up separate regional titles.
"The cost of actually doing it, in many cases, is going to be prohibitive. And often, it can mean significant additional costs for the advertiser when they do want to take advantage of it,"
Like others, Goodman believes it is best to have a publication that appeals right across the country. He cites Emap lads' mag FHM as a good example of a title getting the formula right with its regional pub guides concentrated in one nationwide edition.
Another agency chief, who is reluctant to go on the record, says bluntly: "Putting out region specific editions is often an admission that the title concerned hasn't managed to find the right way of appealing to readers on a countrywide basis.
I'm not sure that a title that fails in this regard is going to have the right appeal to advertisers."
Declan McKenna, a managing partner for MediaCom North, says: "If magazines can offer our clients regional media opportunities on the same basis that they do nationally, then we'll be very interested. But if, as has happened in the past, regional ads are dropped in favour of national buys, then we'll lose interest."
He adds: "After all, the clients who will be really keen on regional opportunities will often be retailers and their message may well be time-sensitive – so they need guarantees of timing.
"And, of course, there is always a trade-off between a more precisely targeted opportunity and the premium that a media owner will try to charge. In our experience, too often, the media owner over-values the opportunity."
NatMags' Southall is naturally bullish about her title's prospects.
She says the two different editions will have the same content.
"There are a number of stories which happen to have Scottish people in them," she says.
"For the Scottish edition, those have been sold through much more heavily, in terms of coverlines and sell. For the first issue, we've gone out looking for stories which involve Scottish people.
"We haven't marketed it commercially. This is about news-stand, retail and distribution. This is about saying ‘we are about all women across women. We are not a Londoncentric title.' A lot of our competitors are very much focused around London and the South East, both in terms of the women they feature and the shops they have."
But Southall says increasing readership has the potential to lure more advertisers to the title.
"It depends on how far the distribution increases," she says.
"If you are taking regional advertisers, you need plate changes, you need to reconfigure the flatplan and you have a separate rate card for that region. So it really needs to be at a certain critical mass to make that worth the time and the effort."
She says it is too early to predict if other magazines will follow suit and start producing separate editions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
One monthly magazine that has separate editions for Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England is IPC's Rugby World, all introduced over the past decade and all with separate front covers featuring players from the four different places.
Editor Paul Morgan says the move was a good one given the fierce regional "patriotism" of rugby fans.
"Bookshops in Cardiff don't want to have a magazine with an English rugby player on the front," he says.
Some 74% of the publication's sales are in England, while Wales is 7%, Scotland is 4% and Ireland is 5%. And the remaining 10%is on copies for export abroad.
Morgan is convinced regionalism has helped to boost overall sales, adding: "It will have affected advertising positively as well."
Cynics might argue that on the evidence of percentages like that, the case for regional editions has yet to be made. Others will probably say that publishers need to do more than beam a separate front cover and the odd regionally-focused page at potential customers outside England's borders to get a significant response from readers and advertisers alike.