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

Image lead story UnLtd’s ‘Big Clash’ Raises Over $120K, With Media Owners & Media Agencies Crowned Champions
  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Technology

UnLtd’s ‘Big Clash’ Raises Over $120K, With Media Owners & Media Agencies Crowned Champions

With over 50 companies taking part, the fourth annual Big Clash cricket tournament has been the biggest yet, raising $124,000. The event once again brought the industry together for a great afternoon of cricket, drinks, music, and charity activations. This year, the event was expanded to have Media Owners, Media Agencies, Techies and Creatives all […]

SCA’s Profit Drops 21% Due To “Years Of Heavy Lifting”
  • Media

SCA’s Profit Drops 21% Due To “Years Of Heavy Lifting”

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) has experienced a negative first half of the 2018 financial year, posting a dramatic drop in overall profit and a slight drop in revenue. The group’s net profit after tax fell 21.2 per cent to $48.5 million in the six months to 31 December 2017 (compared to the previous corresponding period), […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Lord Of The Fries Pays Homage To Kanye West & Kendrick Lamar In Clever Ads Via Milkman
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Lord Of The Fries Pays Homage To Kanye West & Kendrick Lamar In Clever Ads Via Milkman

Creative digital agency Milkman has helped Lord of the Fries (LOTF) pay homage to two of the fast food outlet’s favourite artists through a series of clever art poster adverts. Milkman re-created the latest album covers of Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar with a LOTR vibe to highlight the brand’s hip-hop roots and its favourite albums […]

Keep Left Wins PR Account For Greening Australia
  • Marketing

Keep Left Wins PR Account For Greening Australia

PR and content marketing agency Keep Left has been selected by proactive conservation organisation Greening Australia to raise public awareness of its flagship programs and national footprint. The relationship began in 2017 when Greening Australia engaged Keep Left in support of Reef Aid, a project launched with corporate partner Virgin Australia to improve water quality […]

Now Screen Repositions Organic Care Brand With New Campaign
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Now Screen Repositions Organic Care Brand With New Campaign

Aussie agency Now Screen has teamed up with Organic Care to reposition the brand in what has become one of the most competitive FMCG spaces. The new campaign, ‘Caring Comes Naturally’, celebrates what Organic Care has created since its inception: products that are as good for your body as they are for the environment. In […]

Can You Speak Data?
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

Can You Speak Data?

We're certainly fluent in gibberish, balderdash and claptrap here at B&T, but sadly data isn't part of the lexicon.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Social Change Maker Profile: Emma Heath
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Social Change Maker Profile: Emma Heath

B&T has partnered with UnLtd to showcase industry heroes! Well, it's arguably more heroine in the case of Emma Heath.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ad Fraud: A Problem We Can Solve
  • Advertising
  • Opinion
  • Technology

Ad Fraud: A Problem We Can Solve

Unlike B&T's mystery office farter, this columnist argues ad fraud is a problem that can possibly be solved.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Why We Pivoted Our ‘Specialist’ Agency Five Times In 15 Years
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

Why We Pivoted Our ‘Specialist’ Agency Five Times In 15 Years

In this opinion piece, Gavin McDonough (pictured above, co-founder and managing partner of Urban, shares through his own experience some valuable advice for independent specialist agencies. In November 2017, my brother Ryan and I celebrated 15 years in business. We started business out of my front room in Melbourne in 2002 – not with any grand […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
W+K’s Susan Hoffman Chosen As 39th AWARD Awards Chair Of Judges
  • Advertising

W+K’s Susan Hoffman Chosen As 39th AWARD Awards Chair Of Judges

Susan Hoffman, co-chief creative officer at Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), has been appointed chair of judges for the 39th AWARD Awards. Known to challenge the status quo, Hoffman is behind some of W+K’s most memorable and game-changing ads, including Nike’s ‘Revolution’, Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ and Chrysler’s Super Bowl spots starring Eminem and Clint […]

Experiential Agency Kreate Gets Bought Out By Staffers
  • Marketing

Experiential Agency Kreate Gets Bought Out By Staffers

Leading experiential marketing agency, Kreate Australia is embarking on an exciting growth strategy following its purchase by three of the agency’s existing management team from its UK founder, Steve Evans.

Hurry! B&T 30 Under 30 Entries Closing Friday!
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Hurry! B&T 30 Under 30 Entries Closing Friday!

This is a clarion call for B&T 30 Under 30 entries, although it's probably more mariachi band than angelic harbinger.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
The Hit Network Chooses Comedian Tanya Hennessy To Host Weekend Breakfast
  • Media

The Hit Network Chooses Comedian Tanya Hennessy To Host Weekend Breakfast

Southern Cross Austereo’s Hit Network has announced that rising radio star and comedian Tanya Hennessy will take over hosting duties for its weekend breakfast slot in 2018. Hennessy will bring content to the airwaves each Saturday and Sunday morning from 7am to 9am with a regular rotation of guest co-hosts. The self-described talker, not walker […]

Straight Up PR Wins Five New Clients
  • Marketing

Straight Up PR Wins Five New Clients

Health, wellbeing and lifestyle PR agency Straight Up PR has welcomed Changing Habits, Unichi Wellness, enerGi, SleepX, and Healthie Hampers to its client portfolio. Straight Up PR’s projects will include bespoke PR services and influencer marketing packages specifically focusing on communications strategy and execution, media and influencer relations, PR launch events, product seeding and gifting, […]

March One Creates ‘Cheese For Change’ Fundraising Campaign For White Ribbon Australia
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns
  • Marketing

March One Creates ‘Cheese For Change’ Fundraising Campaign For White Ribbon Australia

Independent creative agency March One has developed a new fundraising event for White Ribbon Australia that turns a social moment into a social movement. Starting on Thursday 22 March and going until Sunday 25 March, Cheese for Change will ask Aussies to create a cheese platter that matters by gathering friends, family or co-workers together […]

Sixth Annual IGN Select Awards Winners Announced
  • Marketing

Sixth Annual IGN Select Awards Winners Announced

The winners of IGN Australia’s sixth annual Select Awards were revealed during a huge special event at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney on Friday, February 16. Some 225 Media & Game Publishers alongside 320 IGN Community Gamers attended the annual event. 2017 was absolutely crammed with terrific games and several categories were extremely tightly-contested. The top […]

Meet Your Mentors For B&T Bootcamp 2018!
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Meet Your Mentors For B&T Bootcamp 2018!

When it comes to an industry "who's who", you'll find there won't be too much who-ing with this impressionable lot.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
ANZ Unveils Its 2018 GAYTMs
  • Marketing

ANZ Unveils Its 2018 GAYTMs

Mardi Gras is only weeks away and B&T has already hoisted the mirror ball and donned the hotpants to bring you this.