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
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.’
Writer, Just 17
Entertainment editor, Big!
Launch editor, Bliss
Editor, New Woman