McCabe: New Cleo editor will 'rock the world' of struggling women's monthlies

McCabe: New Cleo editor will 'rock the world' of struggling women's monthlies

Magazine circulation figures released last week prove the embattled young women’s monthlies need a major change of direction, and editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly, Helen McCabe, believes the sector has found its messiah.

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Speaking at a Women In Leadership event arranged by Host yesterday evening, the editor of Australia’s largest selling magazine told the crowd that Sharri Markson, the newly minted editor of Cleo, would “rock the world” of the iconic women’s title.

“I am very excited by the appointment of Sharri Markson. She is going to rock the world of that magazine and it’s not going to know what’s hit it,” she said.

Markson’s appointment to Cleo was announced in December.  At 28 she has already held roles as the The Sunday Telegraph’s state political reporter, Canberra correspondent and chief of staff. More recently she was a TV journalist with Channel Seven and one of a four journalist team which won a Walkley award in the TV news reporting category.

She embarks upon her magazine journey at a tough time for the women's category. In the six months to December 2012, Bauer Media Group’s stable of iconic young women’s monthlies were hit hard: Cleo slumped 23.6%, Cosmopolitan fell 16.2%,Madison dropped 23.3% and Shop Till You Drop receded 14.9% year-on-year.

Likewise, Pacific Magazines’ InStyle dropped 8.2% and Marie Claire lost 9.6% of its sales, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

McCabe said Markson would make Cleo relevant again by “employing good old fashioned story-telling techniques” which stem from excellent training in the “purest of tabloid journalism”.

She also stressed the sector would resonate with modern young women once more if it concentrated on quality stories and content.

“[The poor performance of the women’s monthlies] is not a reflection on anybody other than the fact that magazines have had massive cost cutting. A lot of the skill of collecting stories, writing them and subbing them has been depleted.

“[Those magazines need to] go and talk to 20-something girls and package up those issues and stories in a way that reflects the craft of journalism.”

Frankie magazine proves that young women still have a voracious appetite for magazines, jumping 5% in the last audit to hold a circulation more than both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Frankie makes it obvious that when you get your product right, you can go from a standing start and people will follow and pay for it,” said McCabe. “Frankie is selling over 50,000 while Cleo and Cosmo are struggling so I do think the whole content issue needs to be looked at closely.”

Since taking up her post, Markson, daughter of PR gurus Max Markson and Ro Markson,  has employed News Limited journalist Rosie Squires, daughter of sports media personality Tony Squires.

“She is an excellent young reporter in the same ilk as Sharri. Both Sharri and Rosie come from really interesting media stock. I already know a couple of columnists they’ve signed. They are just aiming for the stars.”

McCabe was a guest speaker at Host's Senior Women in Media and Marketing (SWIMM) event  – a regular networking and mentoring event.