Books: The Boys' Club

As the major free-to-air networks go into publicity overdrive, competing for audience share with their 2009 programming line-ups, the who's who of Sydney media gathered together last night for the launch of former Nine Network publicity head Wendy Squires' highly anticipated book, The Boys' Club (Random House; $32.95).

Ironically, it was The Girls' Club who turned out in support of Squires. Outspoken TV newsreader Tracey Spicer emceed the event, entertaining the crowd with an extract from the book as well as sharing insights into her experience with network suits. Leila McKinnon, Lisa Wilkinson (who scrubbed up well this morning on Today), Deborah Hutton, Angela Bishop and Kerri-Anne Kennerly represented the feminine side of TV, while magazine mavens (and current colleagues of Squires, who works for ACP) Robyn Foyster (Australian Women's Weekly), Paula Joye (Madison) and Mia Freedman ( were also in attendance (go, girl power!).

As the turnout would suggest, this is a Very Important book launch, at least for those who mix in media circles. Following on from last year's anonymously authored and controversial Boned, a "thinly veiled" fictional account of the sacking of newsreader Jessica Rowe from Nine's Today show, Squires' debut is valuable for its humanist appraisal of an industry known for its entrenched sexism, cut-throat sackings, egocentricity and behind-the-scenes back-stabbing.

Touted as "Bridget Jones meets The Devil Wears Prada" (the red, black and white cover even looks DWP-esque), Squires uses her pen to tactfully illuminate the shortcomings of an industry where keeping up appearances and OzTam ratings take precedence over, well, everything. At Network Six (aka "The Boys' Club"), women are particularly expendable – as in the glossy world of The Devil Wears Prada, the girls have to watch their backs, as well as their weight.

Squires' protagonist Rosie Lang, like Kate Cornish of Boned, has been around the traps. But unlike the childless Cornish, Lang is a divorcee with a four-year-old son. Her tough-talking, former-newshound work image is softened by her maternal instincts, her compassion for her fellow female employees and her very real-life struggles with superwoman syndrome (she proves it's near on impossible to have the whole pie, let alone a cigarette, and enjoy it).

When we first meet Rosie, she is juggling the early-morning demands of her son while ignoring the relentless ringing of her mobile phone. We're then taken through a day in the working life of Rosie, whose demanding 24/7 role as the head of publicity for Network Six consists of refuting the claims of gossip columnists, crisis managing recalcitrant stars, counselling female staff and being thrown to the proverbial dogs at each executive-level meeting. It's exhausting to read, but many women will empathise with Rosie's career plight. Why do we so willingly undertake thankless, soul-destroying work at the expense of those life elements which are so much more rewarding and emotionally nourishing?

Despite Squires' claim that "no character described in this book bears any resemblance to an real person and any possible similarity is therefore purely coincidental", Rosie's boss, Big Keith, bears all the characteristic hallmarks of one late Kerry Packer (a drinker with heart problems and a predilection for crass commentary who laments the passing of the halcyon days of television). Big Keith is a likable bloke with a soft spot for Rosie, a passion for TV and a supportive wife (no mention of mistresses). And despite his vulgarity, the slimy and snipey Network Six executive team make him look positively saintly.

Playing to true chick-lit formula, there's the requisite Hugh Grant love interest, the quirky/cool best friend, the omnipresent and overbearing mother figure, the former flame, the ambitious underling, the credit-stealing (male) arch-nemesis who makes life hellish, the voice of reason (her assistant, Lisa) and several embarrassing moments (including one drunken night, of course).

The issues canvassed in the novel read like a women's magazine's editorial line-up (Squires is associate editor at The Australian Women's Weekly): Glass ceiling? Check. Discrimination? Check. Balancing career with family commitments? Check. Dealing with your ex and his new girlfriend? Check. Feeling fat? Check.

But where some chick-lit writing is borderline saccharine, Squires' style lacks fluff and waffle and is infused with Kath & Kim-like colloquialisms ("You are officially Jatz crackers") to keep us amused. Rosie may like her heels and designer couture, and experience the occasional (okay, many) emotional outburst, but she's a tough talker and knows her stuff. She teeters on the edge of a major meltdown throughout the novel, but you get the sense that she's also on the verge of a breakthrough, which keeps us from plunging into a hopeless depression with her.

The take-home message for all of us is, are you prepared to sell your life and soul for a job – particularly one that is by nature soulless? Of course, the answer should be no. Unfortunately, for most of us and Rosie, coming to this realisation is usually a case of live-and-learn.

The Boys' Club is published by Random House and will be available from next week.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: State of the (mag)nation (readership)

Better late than never, here is a handy stats roundup from Roy Morgan's December 2008 magazine readership estimates for your reference. What are Aussies reading in their spare time when they're not online?


High-glamour glossy Harper's Bazaar has the unfortunate honour of posting the third-worst readership decline of all magazines surveyed, with a 29.9% fall. Ouch. No doubt the pressure is on new editor Jamie Huckbody to lift the magazine's game after also recording a circulation fall of 10.9%. It now has 188,000 monthly readers, as opposed to 268,000 one year ago. It now makes sense why Huckbody might be tightening the Prada purse strings. Thankfully, advertisers appear to be hanging around.

Faring well:
Marie Claire (+12%): This women's magazine is enjoying a readership increase, as well as a 0.9% gain in sales. Clearly, its 522,000 readers have been responsive to the magazine's re-design and are choosing to invest their discretionary dollars in a quality product during tougher times.

Shop Til You Drop (+7.8%): Also in line with circulation stats (it had a 5% sales increase), Shop has broadened its readership scope by 7.8%. Perhaps women (at least, 207,000 of them) are living vicariously through this shop-a-logue or ignoring the "credit crunch" altogether?

Vogue Australia (+2.1%): While fellow luxury mag Harper's suffers, Vogue, a considerably smaller volume, is reaching 344,000 readers every month (156,000 more than Harper's) with its mix of high fashion, arts and thoughtful features with a smart feminist slant.

Going down:
InStyle (-16.9%): The Pacific Magazines title is having trouble finding its footing in a new economic climate where readers are being more selective about magazines that are relevant to their lives. The readership fall to 226,000 (from 272,000) follows a circulation drop of 4.8% in the year to December. It's the Nicole Kidman of magazines.

The Australian Women's Weekly (-14.7%): The drop in readership, to 2,236,000 a month, follows a circulation decline of 13.8% and puts the AWW behind weekly stablemate Woman's Day on the list of the nation's most-read magazines (WD reaches 2,240,000 readers each week). Do Michelle and Magda have what it takes to help lift readership results in the next half?

CLEO (-13.6%): Also in line with its circulation loss (-16.9%), young women's lifestyle magazine CLEO is losing readership share. While it had 551,000 readers 12 months ago, it now has 476,000 a month.

Cosmopolitan (-7.7%): Stablemate Cosmo continues to enjoy a larger share of the readership pie, with 632,000 sets of eyes each month compared to 685,000 12 months ago.

Madison (-7.3%): Madison has its work cut out competing with the globally branded Marie Claire. The ACP title reaches 240,000 readers each month compared to Marie Claire's 522,000.

Faring well:
OK! (+11.4%): Unlike its British and American counterparts, Aussie OK! has posted a readership increase, now attracting 430,000 readers with its offering of celebrity features and red-carpet pictures every week.

On par:
Grazia (n/a): The new fashion glossy attracts 193,000 readers each week (and a bit of controversy, too).

Who (-0.8%): Maintaining its readership position, this celebrity-meets-current-affairs weekly attracts 757,000 readers a week.

That's Life (-0.8%) and Take 5 (+0.8%): These Pacific and ACP 'reality' weeklies attract 1,125,000 and 893,000 weekly readers respectively.

Going down:
The celebrity mag staples and their more mature counterparts have taken a hit...

Though still averaging 458,000 readers every week, NW's bold and brassy "celebrity sells" offering has turned away some 105,000 weekly readers.

As with NW and despite a 1.6% circulation gain in the year to December 2008, Pacific Mags' Famous is now read by 277,000 people each week, down from 310,000.

Woman's Day (-7.3%): Currently the most-read publication in the country, ACP's Woman's Day is picked up by 2,240,000 people each week, while its Pacific counterpart New Idea (-4.9%) is read by 1,889,000 people each week.

Dolly (-5.8%) and Girlfriend (-6.5%) have both lost readers, with results of 355,000 and 317,000 respectively in the 14+ age bracket. It remains to be seen whether publishers will move their teen mags online and expand their digital offerings beyond news, blogs, pics and the occasional video.

Faring well:
Inspired by the likes of The Biggest Loser and various Government-led health campaigns, Aussies have food and fitness on the mind and are only too happy to share their recipe resources and the smart health knowledge they acquire...

Recipes+ (60.3%): 279,000 from 174,000, though the mag's circulation dipped 15.6% over the same period.
Women's Health & Fitness (+31.2%): 149,000 monthly readers.
Health Smart (+27.8%): 92,000 readers in addition to a 19% circulation rise.
Nature & Health (+24.6%): 86,000 readers.
Super Food Ideas (+13.1%): 1,009,000 readers, though it lost 10% of sales in the year to December.
Donna Hay (+7.6%): 367,000 readers and monthly 90,408 buyers.
Australian Good Taste (+7.2%): 702,000 readers, up from 655,000.
Slimming & Health (+3.75%): 83,000 monthly readers.

On par:
delicious. (-0.6%): 473,000 readers
Women's Health (n/a): 338,000 readers
Australian Good Food (n/a): 278,000 readers

Going down:
WellBeing (-19.2%): 122,000 from 151,000
Good Health & Medicine (-14%): The ACP title now has 269,000 readers.
Diabetic Living (-10%): 189,000 readers.
Australian Healthy Food Guide (-9.2%): 138,000 readers and 33,760 monthly copy sales.
Australian Gourmet Traveller (-6.8%): 274,000 readers.
Weight Watchers (-5.9%): with 160,000 readers has just gone monthly.

Faring well:
Your Garden (+11.9%): now has 198,000 monthly readers, up from 177,000.
Better Homes & Gardens (+9.9%) goes from strength to strength. It now boasts 1,710,000 monthly readers.
Belle (+6.3%): 102,000 readers.
Burke's Backyard (+4.7%): 465,000 readers up from 444,000.

On par:
Gardening Australia (-0.2%) now has 495,000 monthly readers.

Going down:BoldAs predicted, the more slick of the homemaker titles have experienced a slide...

Australian Country Style
(-10.5%): down to 221,000 monthly readers.
Inside Out (-6.4%): down to 131,000 readers from 140,000.
Home Beautiful (-4%): is read by 333,000 people each month.
House & Garden (-2.8%): 583,000 monthly readers.
Vogue Living (-2.5): now has 159,000 readers.
Notebook (-2.2%): 307,000 readers.
Real Living (-1.8%): 114,000 readers, slightly down from 116,000.

Faring well:
RM Williams Outback (+22.8%):
should we thank Australia or The Farmer Wants a Wife? This title has 231,000 readers.
Zoo Weekly (+12.2%):
attracts 554,000 readers with the help of crafty marketing strategies (3D glasses or 'Win a divorce', anyone?).
Inside Sport (+6.9%):
attracts 109,000 blokes each month.

On par:
Men's Health (-0.3%):
the Pacific Mags title has 349,000 monthly readers with increasingly bigger biceps.
Top Gear Australia (n/a)
, care of BBC/ACP, has 410,000 monthly readers with increasingly bigger motors.

Going down:
GQ (-23.2%):
published by News Magazines, now has 43,000 readers.
FHM (-18.7%):
this ACP title is down to 270,000 monthly readers.
Men's Style Australia (-18.4%):
down to 62,000 male readers with a clue about shoes and Porsches (as well as boobs).
Alpha (-12.7%):
down to 281,000 readers. It also lost 16% of sales over the same period. It's published by News Magazines.
Ralph (-12%):
321,000 readers, down from 365,000. Also ACP.

Faring well:
The Monthly (25.4%): sniff it and your IQ actually rises. It attracts 84,000 readers without attention deficit disorder.
Smart Investor (+15.3%): clearly people still have money to invest – 196,000 of them.
New Scientist (+6.5%): self-improvement of a cerebral nature for 264,000 readers.
Time (+2.5%): Thank the Federal Election, Barack Obama, those Wall Street fat-cats and a growing need for quality information and journalism in the blogging age. Time now has 290,000 more informed readers.

On par:
BRW (0%):
still attracts 168,000 business-minded readers each week.
Reader's Digest (0.5%): still ranks amongst the top-10 most-read Aussie titles, with 935,000 readers each month. I digest mine in the doctor's surgery.
National Geographic (-1.4%): has a huge 723,000 readers.

Going down:
The Big Issue (-12%):
when the economy sucks, so does our level of giving. This title, sold by the homeless and downtrodden, attracts 153,000 readers each issue.
Money Magazine (-2.7%):
how ironic! This title now has 182,000 readers.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

* Roy Morgan conducts a national survey of around 60,000 people aged 14+ over a 12-month period with the findings weighed against ABS population data to determine readership figures. As apposed to circulation, which relates to the number of copies sold, readership refers to the number of people reading any one copy of a magazine (e.g. shared household copies).

Mags: State of the (mag)nation (December 2008 audit)

How did the Aussie glossies fare in the latest ABC circulation round-up? GWAS has the stats on who's selling and who's not...

This audit welcomes niche bi-monthly magazines Frankie (Morrison Media) and RUSSH (Rush Publishing) into the audit fold, with average monthly sales of 29,135 and 23,256 respectively.

With more losses than gains in the women's lifestyle and fashion category, it's an advertisers market in Glossy Land. The stilettos will no doubt be out as editors and ad managers vie for ad dollars in a depressed market. Still, Marie Claire and Shop Til You Drop seem to be most resilient, while, despite losing sales, The Australian Women's Weekly, Cosmo and Cleo remain on the top-20 sellers list.

Predictably, the gossip weeklies are feeling the credit pinch at checkout counters, though with a slight sales rebound, Famous, at $3.5o, is the bargain buy du jour for those needing an escape via the celebrity mag express.

On the homemaker, health and foodie front, Better Homes & Gardens is going gangbusters, while Women's Health and Health Smart are dominating the category devoted to our physical wellbeing and more Aussies seek out recipe inspiration via delicious., Australian Healthy Food Guide, Australian Good Food, Donna Hay and Diabetic Living, which all experienced circulation gains.

Herewith a category circulation breakdown...

Faring well:
Shop Til You Drop (+5%):
new editor Justine Cullen must be ACP's flavour of the month, with her title posting a 5% year-on-year circulation rise, though the mag is making amends for its June 2008 audit slump (it was down 6%), luring back buyers who abandoned it as they cut back their discretionary spending in light of rising petrol prices and Visa debt. The magazine now sells an average of 78,834 copies every month (up from 75,017 year-on-year).

On par:
Marie Claire (0.9%): Clearly, Marie Claire, and its mix of politics, social welfare, compassion and fashion, is a magazine that resonates with women in the current social climate (call it the feminine guilt factor – a fashion magazine purchase can be justified when you are also being informed about worldly matters in such times). It now sells 116,500 copies each month, compared to 115,500 a year ago.

Going down:
CLEO (-16.9%):
CLEO continues to lose readers after shedding 12.3% in the year-on-year June 2008 audit (selling 149,256 copies per month at the time) and falling 16.8% in the December 2008 audit (it's now selling 133,107 copies, placing it 16th amongst the top-20 sellers in the country). The title won't be abandoned by ACP anytime soon, with Clinique on board for the Bachelor of the Year event, and editorial initiatives including a monthly 32-page body book and a new budget section.

The Australian Women's Weekly (-13.8%): While still the biggest selling title in Australia, the Weekly continues to lose sales, after posting a 12.4% year-on-year loss in the June 2008 audit and a 13.8% year-on-year fall in the December 2008 audit. Clearly, responsible mums at the checkout are reluctant to indulge their glossy habits. The mag sold an average of 491,476 monthly copies in the July-December 2008 audit period. Apparently, sales of the Weekly have not dipped below 500,000 since 1941.

Harper's Bazaar (-10.9%): While Harper's was up 5% in the June 2008 year-on-year audit, it's now losing ground, selling 47,691 copies in the year to December 2008, compared to 53,531 copies in the July-December 2007 audit period.

Madison (-7.53%): ACP's answer to Marie Claire isn't faring as well as the Pacific stalwart. After dropping 2.4% in the June 2008 audit (selling 95,166 copies), it's now shifting 90,279 copies each month (compared with 97,623 a year ago). Perhaps this month's revamp will do the trick?

Cosmopolitan (-5.6%): after experiencing an 18.7% sales decline in the June 2008 audit, Cosmopolitan fared better this time around, losing just 5.6% of sales in the year to December. It now sells 165,590 copies each month.

InStyle (-4.76%): Pacific Magazines' InStyle is now selling 61,788 copies each month.

Vogue Australia (-3%): The fashion glossy is now selling 50,252 copies each month, compared to 51,827 a year ago. Not such a dramatic loss considering its luxury branding.

Faring well:
Take 5 (+3.5%): ACP 'reality' weekly (as opposed to 'celebrity weekly') Take 5 sold an average of 260,018 copies each week over the July-December 2008 audit period.

Famous (+1.6%):
Clearly the lower cover price of $3.50 is appealing for women wanting a quick celebrity gossip fix – after dropping 10.8% of sales in the June audit (to 67,135 copies), Pacific Mags' Famous is slowly gaining ground, now selling an average of 74,237 copies each week.

On par:
After a debut circulation figure of 70,000, fashion weekly Grazia is managing to shift 65,000 copies every week.

Who (-0.5%):
Who magazine has defied the downward weekly market trend, with sales of 141,003 (year to December 2008) compared to 141,682 (year to December 2007). Like Marie Claire, the mag's mix of serious and frivolous is appealing in the current market.

Going down:
NW (-16.4%), New Idea (-15%), OK! (-14%) and
Woman's Day (-12.9%): these titles have copped the brunt of cuts to discretionary spending. However, all four titles remain in the nation's list of Top 20 sellers: Woman's Day leading with 405,582 average weekly sales, followed by New Idea (330,000), NW (142,183 sales) and OK! with 120,538.

That's Life (-3.6%):
Pacific's 'reality weekly' is down to selling 309,508 copies each month, but remains the 7th-biggest seller in the country.

Dolly (-2%) and Girlfriend (-9%): Following international trends, both Dolly and Girlfriend lost circulation, selling an average of 119,072 and 110,000 copies per month respectively.


Faring well:
Australian Healthy Food Guide (+24.2%): Readers are passionate about this A5-sized mag, which now sells 33,760 copies each month. A regular fixture at supermarket checkouts and priced at $4.95, it's the impulse health buy you just can't help.

Health Smart
(+19%): This Reader's Digest title has a healthy attitude, reflected in sales increasing to 85,707 per month. Intelligent content without an overt dieting message.

Women's Health (+15.3%): clearly, Australian women like their health magazines with spunk and smarts ("how to lose weight when you have an IQ above 2!"). The title sold 86,500 copies each month from July-December 2008, compared to 75,000 copies a year ago.

Diabetic Living (+10.11%):
It's unfortunate that there's an increasing need for this title, yet it's servicing the market well. Sales are up to 46,577 copies per month this audit.

delicious. (+4.2%): this News Magazines title gained 5,199 sales, with an average monthly circulation of 130,465 copies.

On par:
Australian Good Food: Like Grazia, this BBC/ACP title is posting its debut audit figure, registering 71,250 copies sold each month.

Australian Gourmet Traveller (-1.5%): Lovers of travel and food aren't turning their backs on this title in droves, despite its 'gourmet' tag in a time of frugality (perhaps we are living more vicariously?). It sold 74,100 copies per month, compared to 75,207 a year ago.

Donna Hay (+0.2%): Donna's recipes continue to appeal to 90,408 buyers each month.

Going down:

At only $2.95, this Knock Out Media magazine is hardly a drain on the cash funds, yet it's down to selling a still-impressive 114,810 copies.

Super Food Ideas (-9.9%): News Magazine's "number one selling food magazine", number 8 on the list of Top 20 sellers, shifted 271,298 copies each month for the year to December 2008.

Australian Good Taste
"Australia's leading recipe and cooking magazine" is now selling 154,185 copies each month.

Good Health & Medicine
The ACP title is now selling 60,123 copies each month, while fellow ACP title Slimming & Health (-4.7%) is selling 28,653 copies per month.

Weight Watchers (-5.8%): The Pacific title is shifting 81,356 copies each month, compared to 86,347 a year ago.

Faring well:
Better Homes & Gardens (+8.6%): Flourishing in the current market, this Pacific Magazines stalwart, the third-top seller in the country, continues to impress with monthly sales of 308,000, an increase of around 30,000 readers.

Your Garden (+5.5%):
Pacific stablemate Your Garden sold 56,118 copies per month in the year to December 2008.

On par:
Notebook (-0.4%): This News Magazines title's revamp hasn't put off loyalists - it's selling 72,709 copies each month.

Vogue Living (-1.8%):
The News Magazine title sold an average of 43,185 copies per month in the year to December 2008, just shy of its 43,985 December 2007 audit figure.

Going down:

Burke's Backyard (-21.7%): Poor Don Burke just can't compete with Johanna Griggs of Better Homes and Gardens. Still, the mag is selling 58,926 copies per month.

Real Living (-8.3%):
ACP's answer to interiors mag Domino, Real Living, is now selling 55,383 copies per month (let's hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as Domino!).

Australian Country Style
(-2.2%): sold 53,691 copies each month to December 2008; Vogue Entertaining & Travel (-3.95%) sold 30,215 copies; Belle (-3%), sold 29,149 copies.

Phew! To read GWAS' other glossy circulation reports, click here.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

*Number crunching: According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, total gross paid sales = copies sold through retailers, wholesale distributors, sellers and other regular channels of distribution or sale who pay a wholesale price for the publication; cover price sales; subscription sales; accommodation and airline sales; education sales; and multiple publication sales, minus return copies, contra copies, out-of-date copies, banded copies and modified copies. This gives the Bureau its Total Adjusted Gross Paid Sales figure, which is then divided into Australia, NZ and other countries. A restricted amount of 'Event' sales are also allowed (not more than 1% of the TAGPS figure).