Friday, November 18, 2011

Woman’s Weekly: 100 not out

To celebrate the centenary of Woman’s Weekly, Radio Wales invited me to contribute to a breakfast show slot discussing the magazine. Naturally I said yes even though I know next to nothing about the title. My first reaction was to rush out and buy a copy (good move – the 1911 launch issue is replicated inside) and my second was to email Diane Kenwood, the editor, to ask her what the secret is.

Diane was kind enough to refer me to the editor’s letter in that first issue. At considerable length the editor had set out a manifesto for the magazine, which was to be a practical publication for ordinary women, not the lady in the mansion. Down the years, the editors had stuck to that mission until the line reached Diane, who was clearly doing the same – Woman’s Weekly was one of two titles in the sector to increase its ABC figure in the most recent audit (the other being Hello, which is interesting).

But sticking to the last does not mean turning out the same style of shoes – clearly editors had adapted the magazine to reflect the changing needs of its readers. Open the centenary issue and the first thing you see is a QR code that takes you to a mini-documentary charting the development of the publication you have in your hands – these readers are not stuck in the past.

That was two useful reminders of the principles I posited in my last post:
1) a kiss-me-quick pitch (“A practical magazine for ordinary women”)
2) having a clear mission and fulfilling it.

An even more useful reminder came in the Swansea studio I shared with a lady who had been featured on the cover in 1941, when she was three years old. She looked like a “typical” white-haired granny; it was easy to imagine her staying at home and making jam. However, while we were talking off air I learned that she and her husband had, after retiring, gone to Albania to run an orphanage. They had been there all through the Balkan war and through the Kosovan uprising. Out of their pensions they were still supporting two of their former charges through university.

Listening to her story made my life seem about as purposeful as something from an obsolete Innovations catalogue but I took a third great magazine precept from it:

3) never underestimate your readers.

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