Media Profile: Bucking the women’s trend - Dawn Bebe, editor, New Woman

The latest fashionable mantra in media circles is to bemoan the state of women’s magazines. This is especially prevalent since the much-publicised recent departure of Frank editor Tina Gaudoin. It’s important, when attending those media soirees, to say how hard it is to attract women to magazines these days and how the men’s market is doing it better. If you want to maintain this argument, what you shouldn’t do is mention New Woman.

The latest fashionable mantra in media circles is to bemoan the

state of women’s magazines. This is especially prevalent since the

much-publicised recent departure of Frank editor Tina Gaudoin. It’s

important, when attending those media soirees, to say how hard it is to

attract women to magazines these days and how the men’s market is doing

it better. If you want to maintain this argument, what you shouldn’t do

is mention New Woman.



New Woman’s circulation has risen by 24 per cent year-on-year according

to April’s ABC figures. It has also just picked up the Periodical

Publishers Association Consumer Magazine of the Year Award. As the rest

of the women’s market nervously tries to understand its reader, New

Woman appears to have a clear idea of who it wants to target. It has not

always been so, however. At the end of 1996, the magazine’s circulation

seemed to be in freefall. The editorial was a tired, sub-Cosmopolitan

re-hash that looked as though it had run out of steam.



’When I took over in October 1996, we basically had to throw the

magazine in the dustbin,’ says editor Dawn Bebe. ’Staff morale was low

and we’d lost half the team, so for the first six months we had to

redesign and revamp the title with a skeleton crew. We only got through

on sheer belief.’



Her belief was that there was a woman out there who Bebe describes as

’Wine Bar Woman’. She’s got responsibility and a bad hangover because,

while she has a job she also knows how to have a good time.



’We wanted to talk to her in her own language,’ says Bebe, ’which might

sound like common sense, but there still don’t seem to be that many

magazines which do that. This means using slang, colloquialisms and

swear words just as women do to each other in normal conversation.’



Along with this attitude change, there came a new approach to the

contents.



The magazine decided to take a funkier and more clubby approach with a

broad rather than style magazine appeal. The first issue of the revamped

New Woman boosted circulation by 76,000 copies, proving Bebe’s

reputation as one of Emap’s problem-solvers.



It’s a policy the company employs across its various divisions. If you

can make one magazine work for Emap, the company believes that an editor

can do the same with another - or with a radio station in the case of

former FHM editor Mike Soutar who now runs Kiss FM. Bebe has edited

Big!, launched Bliss and then revamped it and her appointment to New

Woman as it reached rock bottom was no coincidence.



The magazine is undergoing another facelift, with a new typeface and

cover design being unveiled at a launch party this week. ’We want to

keep moving the goal posts,’ Bebe says. ’This is only the end of stage

one. We’ll be introducing some further editorial changes down the line.

You should never assume you’ve got the best magazine possible.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Writer, Just 17

1991

Entertainment editor, Big!

1993

Editor, Big!

1995

Launch editor, Bliss

1996

Editor, New Woman



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