Terry Tavner is tough. She doesn’t look tough or sound tough. She
looks warm and friendly and she makes you feel at home quickly. But
she’s tough. Tough enough to walk out of IPC after seven years editing
Chat in a row about the way the magazine was run and tough enough to
walk back after the row was sorted out.
She needs to be tough now, because she is facing a difficult job.
According to the most recent ABC figures, sales for her new title,
Woman’s Own have slipped 8.3 per cent to 653,000. The magazine needs
some rescuing if it is to achieve her stated aim of returning to the
’glory days’ when circulation topped 800,000. It is something Tavner has
done before. When she arrived at Chat in 1989 the circulation was a
meagre 300,000. Tavner went in with guns blazing, persuaded IPC not to
ditch the title and oversaw a relaunch that pushed the figures to
500,000. That is why IPC handed her the weekly title Eva last year,
which she made into a bridging magazine between More!
and the weeklies, despite the fact that More! readers perceived the
weekly market as aimed at older women.
At Woman’s Own there is a similar change in perception to be engineered,
but she reaches for the well worn phrase ’evolution, not revolution’ in
describing it. ’People think Woman’s Own is all about soap operas,’ she
says, sitting in her new office which has the past eight issues pinned
to the wall. Sure enough, all of them have soap stars on the front
’I want that to change. We will still have soap stories of course, but
they won’t dominate the magazine. I would also like to broaden out the
soaps that we cover to include ER, Casualty and The Bill.’
But Tavner has even more ambitious plans for Woman’s Own. Tavner is the
Chat editor who ran an interview with Margaret Thatcher in 1989, took
readers to 10 Downing Street while John Major was Prime Minister, and
after Tony Blair won the election, arranged for six single mums to
interview him for three hours. This is the kind of thing she wants to
’I want Woman’s Own to represent the opinions of all women, because I
think every woman in the country will pick this magazine up at some
point in her life,’ she enthuses.
Jane Bruton, editor of homes and lifestyle title Living etc, started her
career on Chat under Tavner. She describes Tavner as ’an inspirational
editor’. ’She has this way of making everyone on the magazine, from the
editorial assistant upwards, feel that they have a really important role
to play. She just gets the best out of staff. That is a rare skill.’
When it comes to the PR industry, Tavner is pretty scathing. ’What
irritates me most is when PR people fail to understand the difference
between the weekly magazines,’ she seethes. ’You get people offering Eva
incontinence pants and so forth. It is not really the fault of the poor
20-somethings at the agencies. It is the responsibility of their bosses,
who should tell them the differences - if they understand it themselves.
And, with 7.5 million women reading IPC weekly magazines, they can’t
afford not to.’
Assistant editor, She
Editor, Woman’s Own