Zoo Weekly Magazine: My Part In Its Downfall

Zoo Weekly Magazine: My Part In Its Downfall
SHARE
THIS



B&T’s editor, John Bastick, has a number of secrets in his life including once attending a John Farnham concert and a love of devon and cold meats. Another is he worked on the pre-launch of the Australian edition of Zoo Weekly. Following the magazine’s demise yesterday, he’s decided to confess all…

Did you rejoice at yesterday’s news of Zoo Weekly’s demise? Did you regard it as nothing more than a mysogonistic rag for smutty schoolboys and the anti-Christ himself? A summoning of the dark lord Satan to return to earth to rule over us for all eternal? Well, as a confession, I may have been partly responsible for its launch in the first place (the mag, not the dark lord!)

The year – if I can think back that far – was 2005 and I was employed by now defunct magazine publisher EMAP Australia and editing now defunct men’s magazine FHM. The “suits” had gathered us in and decided the business (along with a mountain of other problems) had a cash-flow one. It was decided a launch of a top selling weekly title would bring the business not only the cachet it craved (particularly when competing against the glamorous likes of ACP and Pacific) but a trough of cash to stave off the wolves too.

If I recall – and again the memory’s hazy – a number of British Emap Weekly titles were touted for an Australian debut. Women’s weekly HEAT, fashion thingy Grazia and a new, mysterious men’s title called Zoo Weekly were the frontrunners. Well, the only runners, in fact.

On top of my FHM duties I was squirrelled away in a little closet called “top secret special projects” with FHM’s designer extraordinaire Nicholas “The Captain” Buckland. Our brief – apart from drinking too much and squabbling with each other – was to dummy-up a local version and devise a cunning editorial strategy, plan, whatever you want to call it to get a local Aussie version of Zoo off the ground. We were all made to sign secretive clauses that were punishable by death (well, instant dismissal.)

After not a great deal of effort that bordered on disinterest, I remember pitching our efforts to a boardroom full of the UK executive team who were to release the wads of British pounds required for a launch. This was the same team that had recently lost 100 million pounds in a failed US venture and so there was a little bit of apprehension; plus, I’d heard they’d had to slum it in business-class on the flight to Sydney for their crimes.

Despite muddling my way through the presentation and not being able to intelligently answer one of their questions it was decided that Australia was to have its own edition of Zoo Weekly launching in January 2006 with grand plans for 150,000-plus sales.

However, in hindsight, the question has to be asked: was launching a print product in the declining men’s category a risky venture? Very probably. Had that boardroom not been full of stuffy, middle-aged English print aficionados but a younger, all the more tech-savvy publisher would the outcome have been different?

Anyways, a team was quickly assembled; a former British editor was recruited and I, quite wonderfully, got shipped-off to Emap’s London office for a secondment. By all reports Zoo’s local launch was a raging success – namely because it was a $1 a copy – which also managed to hasten the demise of the other lad’s mags on the shelves. Alpha first to go; followed by RALPH and eventually my beloved FHM.

While in London I was having a stack of sex – albeit with my wife – and one single little sperm managed to ring Mrs Ovaries’ doorbell. Now up the duff, the decision was to abandon the UK after 12 months (where I should brilliantly add, I was Zoo’s reporter at the 2006 German World Cup for six weeks) and return to Oz. On my return, management hadn’t a clue what to do with me and save paying out a whopping redundancy I was sent to the Zoo editorial offices and ordered to look busy.

I remember on my first day looking at the latest issue. The folios (a magazine’s page numbers) went from 0-9 minus 5 and 6 and appeared to miss the 20s altogether. Worse still, the front cover reported it to be the “9th Februarry” edition. When I pointed it out to the editor he said – very politely, mind – “We don’t give a shit about that sort of stuff!” So clearly journalistic ethics, integrity and passion for the printed word were never high on Zoo’s KPIs (and I say that as a good thing.)

And this comment certainly isn’t a reflection of the wonderful staff, their talent, hard work or their zealous passion for the title but I absolutely fucking hated working at Zoo. When you’re in your mid-20s working in lad’s mags is undoubtedly cool. But when you’re in your mid-30s, recently married with a newborn kid and a massive Sydney mortgage it’s all just painfully sad. Hence, after about five months of misery I begged management for a redundancy, took the cash and walked out the door without even saying goodbye.

Making a men’s magazine is like making a cake. You get the eggs, the flour and the milk and you have to twist it into some sort of new creation with each edition. Same with Zoo; you get the girls, the cars and the gruesome photos and you’ve got to make the same old stuff look fresh each week. That’s where Zoo’s “stunts” came in – “win a divorce”, “win a boob job”, “win a three-headed monkey”. And it was the (well-documented) furore around these that Zoo relished and revealed in, its detractors despised, lawyers made a fortune from, and what arguably ultimately killed the magazine off in the end. Rather than fear being sued, lad’s mags wore it as a badge of honour.

I know lots and lots and lots and lots of people hate men’s magazines (when I left Zoo a headhunter told me to remove all reference to it on my resume) and sure, that’s theirs/your prerogative. Hey, I think New Idea, The Bachelor and Melbourne Housewives is the domain of brain-dead cretins but I respect people’s right to watch/read it and I certainly have infinitely better things to do with my time than spend my waking hours raging about it on social media.

Was Zoo nothing more than a misogynistic, women-hating pamphlet that condoned rape culture, as some would have us believe? To be honest, I’d have no idea nor feel qualified to comment having not honestly read a single copy of it since I quit in May 2007.

It always reminds me of a wonderful reader’s letter I got when editing FHM which read: “I’ve been reading your magazine for six years and I’ve hated every issue…!” Do men like attractive women in bikinis, V12 Ferraris, gags about flatulence and gory photos of people who’ve had a run-in with a crocodile? Yes, they do and regardless of Zoo’s demise they probably always will.

Sure, there’s always been this PC rage around men’s magazines, yet the endless fat shaming, malicious gossip, celebrity schadenfreude and bald-faced lies of women’s titles goes largely ignored.

Undoubtedly, Zoo’s been in strife for some time. I remember when we crunched the numbers way back in 2005 it had to sell 70,000 to break even. It’s been selling not much more than 20,000 for the past few years and must have been haemorrhaging cash for owners Bauer. And with Top Gear’s closure last week we can assume two things: A) Men under 40 have all but given up on print and (B) Bauer would much prefer to put its efforts into its women’s titles and recipe websites

It’s the one thing that’s always bemused me about the magazine industry – it moves at glacial speed. It takes forever to launch anything and when existing titles start to head south, all the alarm bells are ringing (plummeting circulations and revenues), publishers continue to quixotically meander on for years before putting a title out of its misery. There are good lessons to be had from the TV business. Launch a new show, promote the shit out of it and if you aren’t in the number one slot in two weeks then you’re quickly taken out the back and shot.

But vale Zoo. You did your job admirably for almost a decade (no mean feat in the tumultuous media times in which we live.) You were irreverent, stuck it to the wowsers, entertained and – whether you succeeded or not – made people laugh. And no one should ever be castigated for that for mine.

My best wishes to Zoo staff for their futures.

 

 

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Why The “No” Campaign Is Just One Long Slippery Slope
  • Opinion

Why The “No” Campaign Is Just One Long Slippery Slope

Not exactly your typical marketing/media piece, but here playwright Ron Elisha (pictured below) explains the damage done by the “No” campaign and the now infamous skywriting on a recent blue-sky Sydney Sunday… My daughter is crying. It’s not that she’s fallen over and barked her knee. Nor is it the trauma of immunization, or the […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
QMS Goes West With ‘The Leeder’
  • Advertising
  • Media

QMS Goes West With ‘The Leeder’

QMS Media continues to expand its digital portfolio across Western Australia, switching on an iconic billboard in the heart of Perth. Following the launch of two new digital billboards in the major WA regional centres of Bunbury and Kalgoorlie in recent months, ‘The Leeder’ further delivers on QMS’ digital expansion strategy out west. Positioned at […]

PR Firm Text100 Wins NetApp Account For APAC
  • Marketing

PR Firm Text100 Wins NetApp Account For APAC

Global marketing communications agency Text100 has announced it been appointed by data management company NetApp to drive its brand transformation effort across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. Following local competitive pitches conducted across the region, Text100 has been appointed as the APAC lead agency out of Singapore, and as the local agency of record in Australia, […]

MFA Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

MFA Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!

B&T once again donned the tux, applied the Brut, and primed the liver for last night's MFA Awards in Sydney.

Concrete Playground Launches Voice-activated Nightlife Guide With Google Assistant
  • Media
  • Technology

Concrete Playground Launches Voice-activated Nightlife Guide With Google Assistant

Digital publisher Concrete Playground has unveiled a new app that helps Millennials plan their night out using voice control – the first of its kind to become available in Australia. Concrete Playground’s Guide to Tonight now works with Google Assistant, making it available on a range of Google devices and helping people to decide what […]

Digital Agency Inlight Secures Two Key Client Wins
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Digital Agency Inlight Secures Two Key Client Wins

Independent agency Inlight has announced it has won the digital account for Benetas, a not-for-profit aged care provider in Victoria. Following a competitive pitch process, Inlight was chosen to handle Benetas’ new website design, build and ongoing optimisation. Richard Barker, marketing manager at Benetas, said: “We wanted an agency that could be our true digital […]

AMI Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!
  • Marketing

AMI Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!

With almost 30 awards handed out, B&T predicts plenty of numb bottoms at last night's AMI Awards in Melbourne.

Clems Sydney CEO Andy Pontin Quits
  • Advertising

Clems Sydney CEO Andy Pontin Quits

Sure, B&T flashed the news of Andy Pontin quitting this morning. White lies aside, he's actually still got six months.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Adobe MAXes Most Creatives In A Room Record
  • Advertising
  • Media

Adobe MAXes Most Creatives In A Room Record

B&T's journo is reporting live from the annual Adobe Summit in Vegas. Although, "reporting" is somewhat of a stretch.

Opinion

by David Hovenden

David Hovenden
Digital Women’s Network & The Australian College Of Marketing Unveil Latest Short Courses
  • Marketing

Digital Women’s Network & The Australian College Of Marketing Unveil Latest Short Courses

The Australian College of Marketing is collaborating with the Digital Women’s Network to bring new short courses aimed to provide the latest skills across all aspects of the Digital landscape, kicking off in Melbourne and Sydney in 2018. Course content will focus around various topics related to the digital marketing landscape. All courses will run […]

Man working at office desk, looking at computer and scratching head
  • Technology

Where Are Digital & Tech Skills & Salaries Headed?

The rapid pace of technological change in the digital sector is seeing demand for those with the right skill sets outstrip availability, both locally and globally. The individuals who have kept their skills up to date are being well-rewarded financially. Now, Digital + Technology Collective’s expanded annual Skills and Salary Survey will put some numbers and context […]

Disney & ESPN Unify Sales & Partnerships Teams
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Disney & ESPN Unify Sales & Partnerships Teams

Disney and ESPN have formed an even closer bond, announcing a new alignment of the two properties through their media sales and partnerships teams. Instead of entering through three doors, Disney ESPN Media Sales & Partnerships will give media buyers and marketers a refined, singular point of entry for Disney, ESPN Digital and Maker. Nik […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Sydney Start-up Muzaara Partners With Commission Factory To Turbocharge Digital Ad Spends
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

Sydney Start-up Muzaara Partners With Commission Factory To Turbocharge Digital Ad Spends

Sydney-based adtech start-up Muzaara has announced a new strategic partnership with performance marketing platform Commission Factory. Together, Muzaara and Commision Factory are providing SMEs with a secret weapon to skyrocket their online brand visibility and effectively manage and maximise their online advertising campaigns. This partnership will allow both online marketing companies and their impressive roster […]

Kellogg’s Creates AR Halloween Trick Or Treat Experience Via Shazam & Orchard
  • Campaigns
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Kellogg’s Creates AR Halloween Trick Or Treat Experience Via Shazam & Orchard

Breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s has joined forces with Shazam and digital agency Orchard to deliver a first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) Halloween Trick or Treat experience for families. The campaign, which leverages Shazam’s visual recognition platform and recently-launched AR platform, sees Kellogg’s pilot the replacement of physical gifts in cereal packs with a digital experience that […]

Kraft Heinz Appoints Cummins&Partners As New Creative Agency
  • Advertising

Kraft Heinz Appoints Cummins&Partners As New Creative Agency

Kraft Heinz today confirmed the appointment of Cummins&Partners as its new Creative agency after an extensive pitch process. They will be responsible for brand strategy and integrated creative across the expanding Kraft Heinz portfolio including Kraft, Heinz and Golden Circle. A Kraft Heinz spokesperson said: “After an exhaustive search involving a competitive pitch, we have made […]