Mags: Notebook:'s new campaign

With a change of editor at The Australian Women's Weekly, which always brings with it some uncertainty, conditions are ripe for Notebook: magazine to be pushing itself as a stable alternative for media buyers looking to align their brands with a quality title (albeit one with a much smaller readership: Notebook: has 275,000 readers to The Weekly's 2,217,000 as at the March 2009 audit).

As such, a new ad for Notebook: runs in today's Australian newspaper's Media and Marketing section, just below a big picture of Vogue's Kirstie Clements. I mention this because it features a quote by Yours Truly pulled from this post. Am I on the News Limited payroll? I wish! But I'm certainly chuffed. Accusations of perceived bias pending (eek!), it's a nice way to start a new week: thanks, Notebook:!

Additionally, Notebook: is running the below banner ad on its News Limited affiliated websites.

Back with your regular dose of 'Short & Sweet' shortly!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS New York News Desk: The September Slump

Satchels will be lighter next month when the September issues hit newsstands and mailboxes. As WWD reports, the traditionally strong September issues will see "Steep Ad Declines, Worse Ahead." Insiders predict that business will be "brutal" this fall, perhaps through to mid-2010. Compared to September issues a year ago, here's how the money is drying up:

- Teen Vogue: down 31%
- Vogue: down 36%
- W: down 53%
- Glamour: down 41%
- GQ: down 31%
- Lucky: down 36%
- Allure: down 51%
- Self: down 50%
- Vanity Fair: down 36%
- Cookie: down 19%
- Details: down 43%
- Harper's Bazaar: down 26%
- Esquire: down 18%
- Elle: down 21%

Sources: The New York Observer; New York Magazine's "The Cut" blog; and WWD

Conde Nast was keen to defend the slump, with Media Group senior vice president Lou Cona saying, "Our books are down in the entire set, not because there's a problem with print, but our clients' businesses are impacted by the recession and by the lack of traffic at retail."

InStyle is the only fashion title adding add pages – a modest six pages, but still: adding is the key word. Publisher Connie Anne Phillips attributes InStyle's performance to strong newsstand sales, and its accessible and aspirational editorial position.

In other September Issue news, the documentary of the same name, chronicling Anna Wintour's work on the magazines, shot over nine months in 2007, opens at theatres in the U.S. on August 28. This review from Sundance reports that the film "does little to dig under the surface of Wintour's iconic, impassive under bangs image", however, "Wintour is often shot from below, the classic angle given to a person in a position of power."

Blogger Karina Longworth says that in this case, the angle “reveals the imperfections of the facade. We see that her neck and the area under her chin are severely bagged, and up against her comparatively smooth face, one gets the sense that this is less from age or surgical restraint than from her habit of lowering her chin in pursed-lip frown.” Ouch!

It will be interesting to see how Wintour’s peers at other magazines (and, of course, the notoriously hard-to-impress New York newspapers) review the film—if they’re brave enough to dare. At least we know what everyone in the Bryant Park tents will be gas-bagging about during the Spring 2010 shows come September!

Until next week,
Rebecca/New York News Desk

Mags: Therese's glossy reign

While Kevin Rudd has never been media-shy (quite the opposite, what with his Twittering, website and blog), it seems his wife, Therese Rein, is finally ready for her close-up.

Back in May, I wrote 'Rein Priming for Mag cover?', suggesting that the likelihood of Rein appearing on the cover of an Aussie glossy was "about as likely as Susan Boyle landing the cover of British Vogue". In the glossy media world, a picture of perfection sounds louder than a CV full of personal achievements, after all.

At the time, the media was going bananas over Rein's apparent weight loss, which culminated in Woman's Day bringing her down to gossip magazine level, publishing unflattering and unauthorised pictures of her exercising in her gym gear after the magazine was reportedly refused an interview. Jessica Simpson, having suffered her fair share of body criticism this year, would have surely empathised.

Whether for the sake of her health and self-respect or her husband's public image (a bit of both, I suspect), Rein has played the media image game, shedding weight and glossing up. She now wouldn't look uncomfortable in the company of her international counterparts Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. And, confident in this new image, she's appeared on her first glossy cover: News Limited's The Weekend Australian Magazine.

Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald News Review section also ran comprehensive profile feature on Rein over the weekend, 'Pulling the right rein' (aka 'The lady of the Lodge: demystifying the PM's wife') by Annabel Crabb (listen to Crabb talk about Rein here), culminating in a sort of cross-media coming-out party for the PM's wife.

What we're presented with in both instances is the whole PR-managed Rein package, primped for public consumption 20 months after her husband took the country's political reins, which is fitting for a woman who likes to be in control.

Seasoned journalists Crabb and The Australian's Kate Legge dig deep, offering up insights into Rein's character, but she is obviously and understandably cautious about giving away too much. The Rein we come to know is a superwoman with a soft side, who shelves the negative stuff in her "Forgettery" (Crabb's get), is passionate about making a difference and is admirably defensive of her husband.

Crabb devotes much attention to her weight-loss, making note of her reaction to the Woman's Day photos, presumably because that's what we're all interested in hearing about anyway, as well as her family life, reaction to media scrutiny and exhausting schedule of public appearances.

Building her profile piece, Crabb talks of Rein's conspicuous media absence (until now), her presence on the PM's new website, her company's recent contract wins and allows Rein some anecdotes (one woman approaches her in public to convey her sympathies over the Woman's Day pictures, to which she responds: "Thank you. And thank you for your encouragement, and your support and your interest.").

Crabb also speaks to Rein's daughter, Jessica, via Skype, close friend and PR Sue Cato ("She has a totally wicked laugh, a fantastic sense of humour I can't think of anything negative to say about her.") and Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, director of the MCA, who says Rein "endeared herself to everyone" the night she spoke at a fundraiser for the Bella Program.

Legge, who gets six pages and the cover to explore her version of Rein, is interested in her Christian faith, philanthropic efforts, relationship with Rudd and business acumen. While Crabb legs it to The Lodge, Legge's story bookended with a visit to The Block, Sydney's "scruffy indigenous 'hood." So we get Rein The Family Woman (and "shoe fetishist"), as well as Rein The "Communitarian" (as one former employee calls her in Legge's piece) and The Sacrificial Life Partner who won't hear a bad word about her husband ("My role in our life is to love him and support him.").

Both journalists attribute Rein's new physique to her training for "a planned hike up Mount Kilimanjaro later this year". Is this the whole truth, I wonder? Part of me wishes Rein had opened up about the pressure she's felt to play the part of prim-and-trim prime ministerial wife; but she understandably doesn't want to go there. Why should she?

Legge says that she's not keen to "flaunt her new figure", preferring instead to pose in her chair ("our photographer is given short shrift"). Both journalists also reveal that Rudd needs only a few hours' sleep a night to function as the political head of the nation, which, like his daily prayer ritual, has attracted media attention in its own right.

In her search for The Real Therese Rein, Legge speaks to former and current employees, members of her "inner friendship circle", bureaucrats, businessmen, associated charity workers and members of the opposition. Liberal MP Tony Abbott takes the opportunity to have a dig at champagne socialism, euphemism for Rein's personal financial success: "I've been Kevin Rudd's Brutopia attack on the Howard government's market fundamentalism given how he's benefited from her enthusiastic participation".

What we get in both pieces is an intelligent and loyal woman who built her own business empire from scratch, only to relinquish part of it for the sake of her partner's political future. Through Legge's piece, we get glimpses into a life "grounded by family and faith"; a woman with a strong sense of social justice and determination shaped by her father's refusal to give into his disability (spinal injury), an encouraging mother and her brother's autism. Through Crabb we meet a woman who's become accustomed to her role as a public figure and first lady. Both journalists have done her justice.

With all her stars coming into alignment – the overseas business deals, the charitable causes, the image aided by her weight loss – Rein is in her element. The hard work and sacrifice appears to be paying off. The PM couldn't hope for a more formidable political ally, or media accessory, than his wife.

First published on The Punch.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Book Shelf: The morning I met Gretel

It’s the oldest cliché in the celebrity journalism book but here goes: despite her larger-than-life on-screen personality, Gretel Killeen is positively tiny in person. Even her memoir, The Night My Bum Dropped, with its “gleefully exaggerated” tales, belies her diminutive size.

My first thought upon encountering Killeen in the foyer of Brisbane’s Stamford Hotel on Tuesday morning was of a life-sized Tinkerbell, her standard book-tour uniform of black skinny jeans, black vest and flat black boots the perfect complement to her raven pixie crop and feisty feminine zeal. I wonder if her pockets are filled with magical fairy dust and if she might take off flying around the room just to prove herself.

But Killeen is done with trying to prove herself. After enduring more than her fair of public criticism and media scrutiny (like Big Brother, the Logies will just not go away, but she's not going to let it bother her); after growing up in a strict and stifling Methodist household, attending private school and trying to live up to the world’s superwoman expectations, she is finally, almost, content to just be.

“I was brought up thinking that you had to change to fit the mould, which just makes you feel inadequate and incomplete,” she says. “I think that in the journey with this book, that while it’s funny, it’s actually about missing the part of you that had to be abandoned, that was trained away, because it was unacceptable. It’s about the uniqueness you had to abandon to try and fit in.”

A palpable sense of anxiety and inadequacy permeates much of her memoir, which keeps from falling into heavy-going, contemplative Eat Pray Love territory with its clever anecdotes and standard Killeen witticisms. Killeen is, after all, a writer first and foremost, and a prolific one at that: she penned her first book aged five ("It may have been plagiarised heavily from Mickey Mouse") and has produced more than 20 works of fiction, including 1994's popular My Life Is a Toilet, each imbued with her kooky brand of humour.

“I know [Eat Pray Love] was a huge success, but it was so serious, and I like the humour in life. Fundamentally, we’re all faced with the question of ‘What is life about?’. But I find a great connector is when we can giggle at it. It alleviates the difficulty.”

While I expected her to be a formidable, intimidating presence, Killeen is about as warm and relatable as celebrities come, though she'd be forgiven for being guarded and aloof. Her publicist tells me before the interview that she doesn't read everything written about her, but she had been pleased with the profile piece by Mark Dapin which ran in Good Weekend magazine.

She speaks in hushed tones, careful not to disturb the austere ambiance of the Stamford by creating a scene: unlike certain other celebrities, who get their kicks from jumping on couches, Killeen adapts to her surrounds, something she perfected as one of four children who learned to put her thoughts on paper rather than airing them.

"I was a little bit lonely growing up," she says. "You can be lonely in a crowd. Connecting with yourself is what writing allows you to do. I have this opinion that you don’t become a writer, I think you are a writer. I’ve written all my life. I’ve always had stories running through my mind."

Having brought up two children on her own, Killeen is tough and matter-of-fact about just getting on with life (“there wasn’t time to fluff about,” she says), but feels that the stoicism instilled in her runs against the very fabric of her being. Her memoir is like an excavation exercise that attempts to get at the root of her inner longings, what she calls the “ache in my heart”.

While Gilbert turns to gurus, food indulgences and love interests, Killeen turns, not entirely successfully, to her family, friends, a woman named Fluffy and, eventually, God in her search for life’s big answers, concluding in the book’s final pages:

“I realise that if not leading your life wholeheartedly as yourself is truly a sin, then I have committed this sin, too. And I suddenly also realise that this ache I have carried is about loneliness, but perhaps it’s not about missing someone else’s company. Perhaps it’s about missing my own. Maybe the person that I’m missing is the person that I was born to be, with a complete soul and a complete self, uncorrupted by the expectations of others and therefore untainted with inadequacy or inferiority.”

Her book is like a big hug for women whose lives are tainted by constant and all-consuming worry: worry that you may not have lived up to your potential, or what the world expects of you, or that you forgot to get the chops out of the freezer. She believes that in sharing our trials we grow as humans, and, more particularly, as females.

“Women connect by talking about their frailties and vulnerabilities and laughing at their mistakes,” she says. “My bum’s dropped; I can’t believe what I said; look at my boobs; look at my neck! We just connect in the chaos. I feel like [the book] is a gift I’m giving people in saying, ‘Let me tell you how I felt, so you can feel better’. Telling the truth to someone is about respect, and that’s what I wanted to do here. Respect for myself and all the people like myself.”

As a public figure, Killeen has made herself extremely vulnerable, and though she’s been presented with many opportunities she’s grateful to have been given, the return hasn’t always been positive.

“I don’t understand why people see people in the public eye as fodder. They seem to forget that they’re real people,” she says. “What it does call upon is much greater strength for the individuals who are targeted. If you can do that and rise above it, it’s incredibly great for your self-esteem because you work out what’s important to you. But I do worry for people who don’t have that, particularly if you’re younger. If you don’t have the support around you and the experience and the tougher skin, then it can be devastating.”

Once this book tour is complete, Killeen will be working on the sequel in addition to a title for teens and a film she’s written. But now her children are grown, with one living overseas and another not far off it, she doesn’t want to settle down.

“I feel like I had the pause button on my life as a single parent raising my kids for 20 years. It’s exciting to have the thing we often dream about – the energy of youth but the wisdom of age. I want to be able to say that I really lived and to me that means experiencing every emotion. I don’t want to lead that protected life that some people seek. Because I don’t think that allows you to become the person that you’re meant to be. The more you challenge yourself, the more you expand and the more you become yourself.”

The Night My Bum Dropped: A gleefully exaggerated memoir, Viking, $29.95, is out now.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Food for fantasy

It's official: food is the new erogenous zone in women's magazines, and male chefs are taking the place of male celebrities as the object of female desire. Thanks to MasterChef, Matt Preston is the new (cuddlier) George Clooney; Matt Moran the new Brad Pitt.

Perhaps it has something to do with the appeal of a man who can wield a whisk in the kitchen and clean up after himself too? Pure domesticated fantasy!

Capitalising on this food lust is Woman's Day, who has recruited Bill Granger (the Jamie Oliver of Australia), the chef "renowned for his light and fluffy eggs and other deliciously simple recipes", to be part of its food team, producing two food pages each issue.

"We’re thrilled to have Bill joining food director Jennene Plummer and the rest of our food team. Not only is he one of Australia’s best-known celebrity chefs, he also has a young family, so he understands the need to prepare no fuss, wholesome food that suits our readers’ busy lifestyles. Bill will also add a buzz to our food pages that we know will resonate with our celebrity-focused readers,” says Alana House, editorial director for Woman’s Day.

"My major focus in re-joining Woman’s Day was to boost the food and lifestyle pages, which are a much-loved part of our weekly offering. We know that family meals are quite literally planned around what we dish up in our Everyday Food section and, with more than 2 million readers, that gives us considerable influence over what Australia’s are eating each week."

Granger, of course, agrees: "I have always been passionate about making good food available to everyone and joining Woman’s Day means that I can share the food that I am serving my family with an enormous number of Australians each and every week. The idea of inspiring so many Australians so regularly to get into their kitchens and cook delicious and nutritious food really excites me. My aim is always to make my recipes achievable for most, keeping busy working lives and families in mind, and this I see to be a perfect fit with Woman’s Day and its readers.”

A guy who empathises with the plight of the working mother? What could be sexier than that?!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: Marriage is like Magda

Over the weekend, Husband and I got chatting with some friends of ours, a couple 10 years our junior, about marriage and love and what we've learned since tying the knot. While we've no doubt that we love each other, when asked how married life is treating us, we usually entertain people with a sort of skit (this must be said in southern American voices for added comedic effect)....

"Marriage is wonderful, isn't it honey?", Husband will say through gritted teeth, putting his arm around me.
"Oh, yes, I've never been happier!", I'll say, in the manner of a Stepford Wife, a big grin on my face.

The response is usually an awkward laugh followed by a conversational diversion such as the weather. Like Madgda Szubanski disguising the seriousness of her weight problems by saying she's "made by Cadbury's", we publicly mock our marriage to make the reality more palatable: it's laugh or cry.

But like the premature (and immature) Michael Jackson jokes doing the rounds after his death, playing along with this farcical scenario just got tired. And, really, it wasn't funny. We may have prided ourselves on our honesty and candor, but verbally reinforcing the idea that your marriage is crap to all and sundry does nothing to fix the problem. It feeds it. And cheapens it.

So, like Magda resolving to hop off the binge eating bandwagon, I declared an end to the marital tomfoolery. Who were we benefiting with such crude verbal behaviour? We were bringing ourselves down and the institution of marriage with it. It was time to grow up.

A small comfort came care of one of our young comrades: "You've shown us that no matter how bad your marriage gets, you can't just walk away from it," said the young man. And I wanted to cry. Gluttons for punishment we may be, but we do have that to our credit: a dogged commitment to honouring the oath we took before God. We're in this till death do us part.

Which brings me to a new study, which has found that a quarter of relationships will end within six years and 50 per cent by 25 years. Divorce statistics are nothing new (the commitment-phobes love to bandy them about as evidence of the stupidity of saying "I do"), but I do rather hope that after watching the Boomers and Gen-X make divorce de riguer for the even moderately discontented, leaving their children to pick up the messy pieces, that we might be able make some progress on the marriage-for-life front.

My main concern is that we tend to look for the quick-fix rather than committing to anything longer than it takes to upload a picture on Facebook. If we're not happy in our job, we jump ship to another one; we avoid signing up for phone contracts; the latest gadgets quickly render last year's model redundant; and we're not particularly brand-loyal, always looking for the better deal amongst a plethora of choices. Maybe marriage needs a cool marketing campaign?

In response to the story on ABC referencing the survey, WhatIsLove writes: "When people realise love is a verb - then marriages will last the test of time. If you do not feel there is love in your relationship - then love your partner. Take action! Take the risk of surprises, the risk of you taking action, and stop waiting for your partner to "make the change". People hate to hear this, but to love your partner is to sacrifice your time, space and energy for your partner - this also is why you "choose" a partner."

Obviously, the new survey stats are retrospective: we don't know how Gen-Y and their younger siblings will honour marriage (because, um, most aren't married yet). But if the precedent for divorce is set, who do we have to model ourselves on? Thanks to some boyhood delusion, Husband's idea of the perfect marriage involves me putting out in the kitchen and in bed (simple!). Meanwhile I was brought up witnessing the sort marriage issues the characters faced in Lantana (just short of Revolutionary Road dramatic extremities). Sex-on-tap fantasies or Ray Lawrence/Sam Mendes directed despair (or, as Beyonce sings, a "sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare")? Where's the middle ground?

The survey also found that people whose parents are divorced are more likely to call it quits on their own marriages, while couples in which both people had been previously married had a 90% higher chance of splitting than those marrying for the first time. "With few exceptions, the painful numbers indicate that statistically you have a better chance of finding happiness in your current marriage with all its challenges than if you move on to another one," says UCB Australia.

Thankfully, for me, the answer to positive role modelling lies in Husband's parents: they're the proverbial poster couple for a solid marriage. They've had more than their fair share of trials but they've stuck it out, and have rather enjoyed each other's company in the meantime. Granted, they are committed Christians, and God doesn't condone divorce, but their synchronicity just makes me want to give more to my marriage: darn it, I want what they're having! If my marriage has been a 2-minute noodle meal (my specialty!), there's is the three-course baked dinner.

What I've learnt from them is that the marriage is like a living organism (no, not orgasm) that must be fed and nourished and loved and respected: it's separate from the two of us (owned by God), yet we're both expected to invest into it – like relationship superannuation – by giving it time and our unselfish attention and sacrifice. No mean feat for two stubborn young people intent on doing their own thing most of the time! But Husband is the fruit to my nut: we could be the perfect Cadbury couple, if we'd just start acting that way.

Our 'Marriage Sux!' skit is going to be a tough act to follow (we really perfected that one). But, just as Magda said of her determination to shed kilos, "You need to love yourself and do it out of love for yourself, and love for your poor old body", so too we need to change our "miserable till us part" mentality for the sake of our poor old marriage, the love of each other and respect for God. I've no doubt there will be more genuine laughs along the way. And people might start asking us how we are again!

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Girl In Media - Kate Bezar

Not content to tread the traditional corporate path, and disenchanted with the glossies on offer, New Zealand native Kate Bezar launched Dumbo feather...pass it on in 2004. Five years later, she's just overseen the publication of the 20th issue, proving that niche titles, with a worthy purpose and strong reader and advertiser supporter base, are sustainable.

Each issue, Dumbo feather presents its loyal readership with the stories of five "remarkable individuals" living their lives with passion and purpose. If she weren't editing the magazine, Bezar could certainly be one of its inspiring subjects. Herewith her story thus far and thoughts on the business of gloss...

What is the Kate Bezar story? I grew up in New Zealand, a very 'good' girl. I always studied, got good marks and did more than was expected of me. My highest marks in my final year were in Painting and English, but I went on to study Chemistry at uni. In my final year, I was offered the choice of a career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (on a path to becoming an ambassador) or a management consultant for a U.S. company based in Australia. I chose the latter. For four years the projects I worked on improved the bottom lines of companies that already had extraordinarily healthy bottom lines, but the bottom line for me was that it didn't mean anything... to me, anyway.

It took me a while to extricate myself from the fantastic salary, extensive travel, the supposed 'dream job' and the incomprehension of friends and family. But I burnt my suits and heels and took off traveling. I did short courses in architecture, curating and even thought I might become a yacht-designer for a while, but nothing sang true for me.

Nothing made me so excited I couldn't sleep at night, nothing felt like the most natural thing in the world for me to be doing, until I walked into a newsagent one night wanting to buy a magazine and walked out empty-handed. I may have been empty-handed but I was full of excitement because I finally knew what I was going to do… I was going to create a magazine for people like me. Dumbo feather is the result.

Who or what impacted you most in your formative years? Books mostly: Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl, Arthur Ransom, Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree and the 'Famous Five' series; then later the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I'm extraordinarily independent and a total romantic at heart. I think a lot of that can be put down these books and their gutsy female characters with a strong sense of right and wrong.

At school I was blessed to have a wonderful art teacher for my final couple of years. She taught me to trust my own aesthetic, the art of criticising one's own work (and that of others) and opened up my world to the great artists of the last 500 years; from Piero della Francesca to Rauschenberg.

Which glossies did you read growing up? Dolly was about the only one around. I remember reading it and sending away for the free tampon samples, but I don't remember ever buying it myself.

Who or what inspires you most? Ordinary people doing their own thing, against the odds, making a positive impact, taking a stand, taking risks...

Who would you most like to meet or interview? I'd love to interview (and meet) Dave Eggers – he's not only a fantastic writer but has also done an extraordinary thing with 826 Valencia. It's a network of reading centres across the U.S. for disadvantaged kids. One of them is 'disguised' as a pirate supply store, so as well as learning to read and write, kids can pick up a new peg leg, or a new Jolly Roger flag or a bottle of 'Scurvy be Gone'. It's genius.

What did launching the magazine involve? Not enough, probably. I did throw a lovely party, but it wasn't about getting other media there to take photos, it was about thanking all the many gorgeous people who'd helped get me and Dumbo feather to that point. My friends, family, design team, advertisers, those first five interviewees and many others. Other than that, my distributor took thousands of copies to newsagents, many of which never even put it on shelves, but enough did that it was found by kindred folk. Within days I started receiving emails from people all over the country thanking me for making something so special and encouraging me to keep going. One guy threatened to kill my pot plants if I ever stopped - for the sake of my petunias I haven't dared.

What got you through to print? Eventually, in order to sell advertising, I had to tell advertisers when they could expect to see their ad in print and that forced me to set a deadline and get there ... If that hadn't been the case it could have dragged on for a VERY long time. I am notoriously bad without a deadline.

Were retailers and advertisers receptive to the concept? Some retailers, like Ariel Books, were fantastic; their point of difference is having niche titles and the newest thing. Others, mainstream newsagents particularly, were (and still are to a certain extent) a tougher nut to crack. They're interested purely in what moves fastest off the shelves the most.

How did you go about pitching the mag? I created a mock-up of it. It was a full-sized dummy and the cover and first 15 pages or so were real. That really helped because what I was talking about creating really was quite different to anything else out there. It's hard for people to imagine something that doesn't exist and nor has anything like it before.

What do you hope to achieve with each issue of Dumbo feather? I hope that there's something there for everyone, something that will resonate and inspire everyone. It's really important to get the blend of people profiled in each edition right; a mix of men and women, different ages, different paths/stories, different interests. I love that someone might pick up a copy because we've profiled a musician and then also read about a baker and find something to inspire them in that.

You've noted your school motto - 'By love serve' - in a previous interview. Is this the vision/mission for Dumbo feather? Dumbo feather's mission or vision is to foster a community of courageous, creative individuals living their potential with integrity. Love plays a large part in that because it's only when you really love yourself that you'll be true to yourself, and it's only when you love others that you will be prepared to give back to the world, your community and your environment.

Why the 'mook' format? I wanted Dumbo feather to be treasured, to be valued, to sit forever in a bookshelf not put out with the recycling (let alone the rubbish!). So that's why it's printed on such beautiful paper, is bound properly and is the size it is. In terms of the content, the depth of the interviews also means that it's quite a read, more like a book than a mag.

Your most memorable issue and/or interview... Just the other day I interviewed this fascinating guy in Paris. He's American but has lived there for 40 years and every Sunday for 33 of those years he's hosted a dinner party for 60-150 complete strangers: you just have to call or email beforehand to let him know you're coming. Imagine the people he's met! Before Paris he lived in London in the swinging 60s, started a mag Germaine Greer was editing for, and, before that in Edinburgh, he opened the first ever paperback bookshop in the UK, and a theatre, and knew amazing writers like Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Norman Mailer, William Burroughs .. He's just had such a FULL life. And it's essentially because he's a 'yes man' – he hates saying no to anything. I love that. I wish I was more like that.

How big is your team? The core team is tiny! Jim Parry is Df's art director - he's a freelance graphic designer and works on each issue for only two weeks. Barbara is the 'Chief of Flock' and she handles all reader/subscriber enquiries and new subscriptions, orders, etc. Anthea looks after The Nest, is a champ proof-reader and has been volunteering at Df for years now, and Suzanne is our pro proof-reader. Then I have a huge network of writers and photographers I draw on to flesh out each issue – they're awesome.

How long does each issue take to compile, design and send through to print? It's probably about six weeks – the rest of the time I'm doing marketing, distribution, sales and other stuff to keep the wheels turning.

Who is the magazine read by? You, me and everyone we know. Have a look at the kind of people in The Nest and you'll get a feel for it. Anyone who loves reading other people's (real) stories told in their own words, who needs inspiration to pursue their dreams, who loves beautiful photography and great typography... anyone, really.

How do you find your interview subjects? All over the place. More and more are being recommended by readers. Because I'm not interested in interviewing famous people, at that next layer there's a breadth and depth of fabulous people just going about their own thing in a great way that's never-ending. You can imagine, though, at a dinner party when I'm introduced to someone new and they ask me what I do, almost invariably, the next thing I hear is "I totally know someone you should interview."

What are some of the challenges you face as an independent publisher? The biggest one is scale. If you're a large publishing house with a number of titles then you can spread resources across them; like you could have a team of ad sales staff selling the advertising in six different mags at once. They also have a lot more clout with distributors and newsagents so that they get the best positions in stores rather than being stuffed down the back in the maternity section!

What are your primary revenue streams? Subscription sales mostly – 40% of all copies we print go straight to subscribers; that's a really high percentage. Generally in the Australian market it's under 10%. We also sell a lot of back issues because the content doesn't date. We find that someone will discover the current issue and then go online and buy the set of back issues and subscribe; it's great. And then newsagent sales and advertising make up the rest of our revenue.

Which kind of advertisers do you take on board? The kind who have something truly great/lovely/powerful/exciting to offer to readers; travel companies, design companies, eco-companies ...

What kind of opportunities have come about for you by way of publishing the magazine? I have had the best five years of my life since starting Dumbo feather. I've met the most fantastic people, some of whom have gone on to become dear friends. I've been behind the scenes, I've been in front of the scenes speaking to audiences of 3,500 people, I've shed tears in front of 3,500 people, I've travelled, I've travelled so far out of my comfort zone I haven't known the way back!

Tell us about some of your innovations, particularly your new online community, The Nest, and iPhone functions. The Nest is something I've wanted to create for a long time. I've long known that Dumbo feather's community of readers are extraordinary individuals, many of whom are doing great stuff and who would love to know more about each other. A true community communicates, so The Nest is a place on our website where individuals can let the world, or at least the Dumbo feather world, know about their skills, etsy shop, blog, website, business... whatever. Check it out, it's really fantastic.

And the iPhone app is great, it means that people can now read all the back issues of Dumbo feather and the current one anywhere they like on their iPhones or iPod touches. A lot of readers of the print version are subscribing to the digital one too so that they've got access to it anytime and can click on all the websites etc mentioned in its pages.

Do you think we are starting to see the demise of more mainstream titles? Not quite, but magazines that exist purely to make profits are struggling at the moment (and will continue to) as the amount of money advertisers are spending on print media keeps declining... this is the bucket that most 'mainstream' titles fall into, almost by definition.

Do you think readers are craving more authenticity? Definitely. The spate of mags using and even showcasing models without makeup or retouching (shock horror!), the relative success of new titles like Apartamento – "an everyday life interiors magazine" – and the popularity of bloggers like The Satorialist, who photographs ordinary people's style on the streets, are proof that people are just as, if not more, interested in 'real' people and how they live. People are savvy enough to know when they're being fed the PR version of a story and when they're not seeing the truth... and they're sick of it. In the '90s that was all we saw and we're over it.

Is there room in the market for more titles or have we reached saturation point? There's always room for something new, something different, something gutsy and creative. Bring it on! But, for heaven's sake, there's no room for another Who Weekly or glossy fashion mag...

Your take on online media: is it the future for publishing, or will readers always crave a tactile experience? The potential for media online is hugely exciting – the possibilities are mind-boggling – but I don't think it'll ever completely replace the experience of print, not if what's being printed is beautifully put together with timeless content and is a really good read!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Dawn French is fan-fatty-fabulous!

I adore Dawn French. And not just for her comedic abilities, which have kept me entertained via The Vicar Of Dibley on the odd Saturday night (okay, frequent Saturday night) that I stay in or for her frequently entertaining, jovial memoir, Dear Fatty.

I adore French because she refuses to go down the well-trodden celebrity path to dieting hell. Actually, she's been there, done that, and says it wasn't fun: "Losing weight made me miserable and I was so cross with myself afterwards," she tells Woman's Weekly magazine.

French is decidedly happy-fat, as apposed to "skinny fat", the horrible and super-helpful term coined to describe female celebrities who look thin but whose lack of muscle tone makes them internally fat, or "croissant fat", which The Daily Mail believes a "distinctly chubbier" Britney Spears to be after she dared take time off to eat and drink "without worrying about the effects on her figure" in her touring downtime (shame on you, Ms. Spears!).

French, 51, says, "I can honestly say that it doesn't bother me, though I do worry that I'll get so comfortably fat that I won't be able to walk any more. Sometimes I'll get out of bed and think, "Oooh, I need to do some exercise" - but that's probably about once a year, if that. I think the medical term for my condition is called "body blindness". I may ultimately regret not looking after myself more, and plenty of people would line up to tell me that, but it doesn't concern me."

French lost weight prior to marrying her husband, Lenny Henry, at age 24: "When we got married I lost a lot of weight in a very short time, all because I panicked that I shouldn't be a fat bride. But Len took me to one side and said, "Who are you doing this for? I hope it's not me because it's not what I want...My husband's Jamaican and comes from a family of big women. For him it's the norm and thin women are a turn-off."

Of course, French's laissez faire approach to diet and exercise enrages the anti-fat pundits and obesity alarmists, who have responded to her comments via The Daily Mail warning "chubby celebrities [are] fuelling the obesity crisis and setting a poor example", as well as running the risk of developing diabetes, cancer and other weight-related problems.

I can see the merit in these arguments, as what are we without our health, but it saddens me to think we can't just let French be. Particularly as she seems intent on loving herself just as she is. In mental and emotional health terms, she appears to be peak condition!

In response to the Daily Mail story, Malcom from south of Australia's middle (Adelaide) sums up my thinking on this subject:
"One of the most attractive women in the world is Dawn French and Lenny Henry is one very lucky man. Dawn is a wonderful role model for anyone who needs self esteem and the joy of living. I have read her recent book and joy is the word that Dawn evokes about her life and her attitude to those around her. Thank God for people like Dawn French."

Indeed, thank God. Because while the rest of the world is on a diet, French is flying the fan-fatty-fabulous flag.

Without women like French speaking out about self-acceptance, who do we have to remind us that there's more to a woman than the size and shape of her body? That a celebrity might have something more to contribute to the world than dieting tips and biceps shaped by Tracy Anderson?

Jesus said: "I came so that you could have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10). I think he may have been onto something there.

There's a lot of money to be made ensuring that women remain discontented with their bodies, but the Dawn French's of the world aren't buying in. They're buying buckets of ice-cream instead.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Sunday vs Sunday Life

In a classic case of glossy one-upmanship, News Limited's Sunday magazine has responded to Fairfax competitor Sunday Life's recent image overhaul by having a little nip-and-tuck "mini makeover" of its own. This is no time to be resting on one's publishing laurels, after all.

Truth be told, I could live on these magazine-style supplements alone (throw in Good Weekend, Body & Soul and The Age's A2 and my print media consumption needs are very nearly met). Essentially, they're covering the same editorial territory as the monthly glossies, and in some areas they're doing it better. And for FREE (cost of your Sunday newspaper – around $2 – withstanding)!

Where they fall short of the monthlies is in sheer volume, shelf life and masthead prestige. Where they excel is in readership numbers (see the below stats) and value-for-money editorial for the time-poor consumer. Content-wise, these supplements promise to fill the Sunday morning time gap once occupied by church-going: coupled with breakfast in bed or brunch at a beachside cafe, they are rituals onto themselves. In that sense, they provide a unique, relaxed reading environment ripe for perusing those advertising pages.

While Sunday magazine has long been the home of the celebrity cover story coupled by glossy beauty and fashion editorials to rival Harper's BAZAAR, Sunday Life has been the more lifestyle-oriented of the two titles, with a more serious journalistic edge, perhaps because of its Fairfax broadsheet roots.

Now, Sunday Life is now positioning itself as a supplement skewed towards women, with an "authentic and meaningful" flavour. "We will deliver editorial substance coupled with superior design. We want to give it a strong, clear direction that will appeal to smart women looking for enjoyment and relaxation as well as good practical tips on everything from midweek cooking to shopping, fitness and wellbeing,” says Fairfax Magazines publisher Lisa Hudson.

Sunday leans more towards the non-gender-specific entertainment market, with celebrity profiles, male and female columnists, "topical" features, pop culture tidbits, food, fashion and beauty: "Sunday magazine is designed to keep you up to date about the worlds of celebrity, music, movies and style. From topical to popsicle, frivolous to fabulous – it’s what Sunday mornings are made for!" says editor Sara Mulcahy.

Aesthetically speaking, Sunday wins hands-down. Its glossy stock, smaller dimensions (easier to scan, thank you!) and gorgeous layouts make for a visually complementary reading experience you can flick through over brekkie without totally blocking out the view of your partner (that would just be rude, no?).

Sunday Life
has increased its dimensions, changed to a matte paper stock and now runs the same similarly pretty celebrity faces on its covers (previously it eschewed stock-standard women's mag celebs), but fails to look as impressive next to Sunday. It's like putting Kevin Rudd next to Barack Obama; arguably both esteemed statesmen, but who exudes the most glamour?

Now to a look inside the gloss...


Columnists: Sunday Life has scored a columnist coup with Mia Freedman (who has moved from the celebrity-centric 'S' section to the magazine with a column titled "Defining Moments"), Sarah Wilson ("A Better Life"), Karen Martini (food), Matt Skinner ("Uncorked"), Thelma McQuillan ("Window Shopping") and Michelle Bridges (Biggest Loser trainer), all of whom score a cover mention. The Sun-Herald even ran Mia's column picture on the front page along with the copy: "Sunday's best new magazine... Now with No.1 columnist Mia Freedman."

Freedman flies the flag for working mums, hooking her columns on her celebrity and social observations, while single girl Wilson represents the Gen-Xer searching for meaning, balance and connection in her life. Both are gifted, clever writers with a knack for framing deeper contemporary issues with personal experience and pop culture references.

Celebrity: Champion surfer Layne Beachley is interviewed for 'I am what I am'; Catherine Keenan profiles covergirl Kristy Hinze over three pages in 'Midas Touch', replete with Russ Hinze-isms, subtle references to husband and Netscape entrepreneur Jim Clark's immense wealth, confessions of ill-fated and unglamorous model behaviour (who knew she had to have bowel surgery as a result of extreme dieting?) and complementary dressed-by-Sportscraft shots; singer Seal rounds out the issue on the 'Hindsight' page, revealing that Heidi is a "huge role model" for him: "I learn a lot from her and I think that's an important key in relationships."

Features: Human interest features are a specialty of this magazine and hugely satisfying to read. This issue Lucinda Schmidt writes 'No Excuses', which profiles four go-getting career types who schedule time to exercise (leading by example rather than draconian diet editorial). But I most enjoyed 'Living Together Apart', a first-person piece by playwright Louis Nowra about his separate living arrangements with wife author Mandy Sayer. The two are ensconced in different inner city apartments: "We realised we probably wouldn't be a good fit living together. Because we both work at home, personal peccadilloes and habits are magnified: I rise early, Mandy sleeps in. I write wearing a suit because the formality of it gives me the sense of going to work and therefore, I hope, makes me less likely to become slothful. Like a lot of women authors, Mandy prefers to write in her pyjamas...". Nowra reveals that when they talk about the arrangement with other people, women warm to the idea most: "I have come to the conclusion they know that when men shift in with them, they expect to be looked after. For most wives this is a draining and full-time job." Hooray: this man has seen the light! Quick, spread the word.

Fashion, beauty & pop culture: A small breakout box, 'Who What Wear', features on Sarah Wilson's 'A better life' page, as does Kate Duthie's 'how-to' advice column (this week, change a tyre). Thelma McQuillan styles 'The colour purple' and matches jackets, denim jeans and bags in 'Window Shopping'; Nina Karnikowski gives us a rundown of the hottest sales in 'Bargain Basement'; and Natalie Reilly picks three blue-green eye shades.

Food & design/interiors: Karen Martini cooks up three spicy, seasonal dishes using mussels, lamb and pork-stuffed cabbage, while Kim Terakes gives us his rigatoni with capsicum and ragu sausage recipe in 'Feed me now'. Scott Bolles reviews a new Mexican restaurant, Matt Skinner educates us about wine from the Barossa Valley and chef Nhut Huynh is the subject of 'What I ate, what I cooked, what I bought'.

Lifestyle & relationships: Alternative health experts are recruited to answer reader's questions in 'What's the alternative' (how to quit smoking for good with a hypnotherapist), MasterChef judge reveals his food consumption habits in 'My day on a plate', trainer Michelle Bridges tells us how to speed up our metabolism. Columnist Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton writes of primal bonds looking into why some women experience more intimacy with their children than with their partners. 'Myspace' is the magazine's visually inspiring interiors page: this week the subject is home stylist Janita McMahon.

Publisher: Fairfax
Mastheads: Published in The Sun-Herald, Sydney, and The Sunday Age, Melbourne.
Readership: 1,297,000 (Roy Morgan March 2009)
Circulation: 701,227 (ABC March 2009)
Book size: 40
Advertisers: Virgin Blue, LulaFlex at David Jones, Al'chemy, Colonial First State, King Furniture, Energy Australia, Sony Ericsson, Disneyland, David Babaii hair products, degabriele Kitchens, Good Weekend Opera In The Vineyards, Emirates, Fed. Gvt Water Rebate Scheme, BBC DVDs, Jeans for Genes Day, Fujitsu, ABC DVDs and Optus.


Columnists: Comedian Will Anderson's 'Sunday Roast' column alternates with actress Sophie Lee's: admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of either, as some weeks they appear to be clutching at straws to deliver wit and insight that often feels uncomfortable or contrived. No doubt delivering a fortnightly column is no mean feat!

Celebrity: The magazine's front-of-book 'Sunday Best' page (one of my favourites) introduces us to a new talent, usually from the field of entertainment or literature, in 'On the verge' (this week it's Australian opera singer Russell Harcourt); 'In my own words', edited by Claire Bradley, is a first-person regular page giving people in the public eye a chance to explain themselves (this week, Bra Boy Koby Abberton has a lot of explaining to do); the cover story profiling Cameron Diaz, written by Hannah Rand, is a satisfying look at the mega-star, fleeting between physical description ("with long legs in dark, skinny denim punctuated with super-sexy black stilettos, she makes a formidable presence as she strolls through the reception of Santa Monica's premium hotel"), character analysis ("Diaz is a girl who just wants to have fun") and discussion of her career, family, childhood and thoughts on life ("I'm not a woman who says I'm absolutely going to do that or not, because you never know what's going to happen").

Features: Sandra Lee speaks to successful Australian romance authors about their craft, popularity and literary philosophies in 'Romancing the tome'; Beverley Hadgraft relates the story of Chris Davine who had a vasectomy only to lose his son, have the surgery reversed with the help of Professor Earl Owen and father two more children, which helped ease the burden of loss on him and his wife (you couldn't not be moved by this story).

Fashion, beauty & pop culture: 'Jean Genesis' takes on an edgy Harper's BAZAAR styling aesthetic, mixing studio shots of model Mariana with still-life (jeans, shirts, tees, ballet flats, boots, vests, ties, hi-tops, accessories) representing various price points to help us achieve the looks (love it); the 'Beauty addict' page edited by Erin Whitty is a weekly visual extravaganza offering up the latest products tied into a theme (luxury palettes); and Notebook: magazine beauty director and award-winning writer Suzanne Wangmann joins Whitty to pen 'Looking Good', a three-page feature which focuses on the eye area.

Food & design/interiors: The regular 'Appetite' page features a 400-odd-word restaurant review, 'Wine Front' column and 'Three of a find...' breakout box featuring bottle openers. Food editor Donna Hay creates three recipes for kids' birthday parties taken from Donna Hay Kids' Magazine ($7.95; News Magazines). 'At Home', edited by Karen McCartney, uses a teen boy's bedroom to show us how to brighten up a space with colour. The page has a ticker strip with a small Inside Out magazine promotion ($7.95; News Magazines).

Lifestyle & relationships: Type A personality type Rebecca Burrel visits a health retreat in the Hunter Valley ("I leave feeling proud I defied my initial urge to escape"), while new column 'Turning Point', as editor Sara Mulcahy tells us, features "ordinary people who've all experienced a life-changing moment, be it wonderful or tragic, incredible or incidental." Gen X-Pat profiles an Aussie living overseas, 'E-View' allows a celebrity to shamelessly promote a new project they're working on (first question: "What are you flogging?") and the last page, 'Can't live without' gives us a glimpse at a celebrity's most cherished material possessions.

Publisher: News Magazines
Mastheads: Published in The Sunday Telegraph, Sydney, and Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne.
Readership: 3,179,000 (Roy Morgan March 2009)
Circulation: 1,271,872 (ABC March 2009)
Book size: 52
Advertisers: ghd, Visa, Connoisseur, Dare Gallery, GIO, Taylors wines, Fifth Leg wines, Asics, Virgin Blue, King Furniture, Planet Health Qsilica, Fed Gvt. Water Rebate Scheme, Clarins Men,, Dr. Lewinn's Private Formula, BBC/ABC Doctor Who DVDs, Nanna's, Nokia/Virgin Mobile, Bay Leather Republic, Disney DVDs, Luxaflex, Barilla/Thai airways, Vogue Australia, Secret Stone wines.

Both magazines tap into the lives of people outside the proverbial glossy bubble, while concurrently keeping us in touch with the who's what of pop culture and the social issues of the day in a fun, visually inspiring way. They have personality in abundance and have near perfected the mix of serious and frivolous, providing the perfect Sunday distraction for the occasional reader or ravenous media consumer looking to round-out their diet of monthlies, newspapers and blogs.

While Sunday remains the flashier of the two titles, by virtue of its design, glossy stock, fashion and beauty styling, celebrity-centricity and nifty News Magazines associations (even the presence of a Vogue Australia ad adds an aura of coolness),
both titles excel at delivering a mix of human interest stories and features that tap into the Zeitgeist.

Sunday Life
has more personality by virtue of its beloved columnists (something it has in common with Saturday stablemate Good Weekend), while Sunday appeals to the aspirational, image-conscious, pop-culture savvy, sophisticated urban type (and, therefore, the advertisers who want their money, money, money!). Sunday Life risks alienating is male readership by going more female-friendly, but give a bloke half a chance to get some insight into the female psyche and he'll take it.

Whether advertisers and readers will warm to these new-look supplements remains to be seen. But with their editorial innovations, audience reach and commitment to delivering quality features, styling, celebrity profiles and columns week after week, both titles provide value-for-money print alternatives, where salacious gossip and sensationalised editorial is replaced with a more humane focus, which should keep the monthly and weekly glossies on their toes!

Final notes: While aesthetically Sunday wins hands-down, Sunday Life is editorially on-the-money (particularly if you belong to the finer sex).
Glossy rating: 4 for both – skim at your leisure then lend to a friend.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel