Those days are over

I was so shocked when the news broke that Cosmopolitan magazine was closing in Australia after 45 years of publication.

A friend commented on Facebook: “I’m surprised it was still around.” But I know that Hearst – the magazine’s licencing partner – would have been dragged kicking and screaming to the decision. Cosmo is an American iconic – you don’t close those lightly. I think that’s why CLEO went first.

Bauer’s chief executive Paul Dykzeul announced yesterday that the December issue will be the last.

“It has not been an easy decision to make, however, the commercial viability of the magazine in Australia is no longer sustainable,” Dykzeul said in a statement.

“Magazine closures are never easy, desirable or done without careful consideration for all of those involved.

“We have to ensure that we are continually reshaping and defining the business so that our readers of today, and those of tomorrow, remain engaged with the content we publish and the platforms upon which we deliver. We are incredibly proud of the brand and the people who have been involved and represented over the last 45 years.”

I scored a job as a sub-editor on Cosmo in 1992. It was a giddy moment for a girl who’d grown up wanting to the editor of Dolly.

I climbed through the ranks to Deputy Editor, even leading the troops at one point, while Mia Freedman was on maternity leave.

I finally left in 2000 to edit CLEO in Singapore.

Those were the glory days of magazine publishing.

A few months after I started at Cosmo, the magazine’s circulation surged past 400,000 copies a month. To celebrate, Hearst took the whole staff to Hayman Island for two nights … And I wore this terribly unflattering outfit to the beach …

I saw the most mind-blowing live coral while snorkelling there. I’ve never seen live coral again – every time I’ve put my head in the water since then it’s been grey and lifeless.

I’ll avoid the obvious metaphor there.

I remember going to this shoot with Kylie Minogue. She was TINY – the shorts were size 6 and we had to bulldog clip them at the back!

I loved working at Cosmo, particularly when I was writing stories about being a Dyke on a Bike at Mardi Gras or a judge at Miss Nude Australia ot flying to LA to interview celebrities including Salma Hayek, Alyssa Milano, Kyle Minogue and Shannen Doherty.

It was my dream come true as a journalist.

I’m sad that the women’s magazine dream is over.

Earlier this month, the editors of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar resigned when the company revealed the teams from both magazines would be dissolved into each other.

The editors of OK and NW also left recently. I expect to hear a similar announcement about those magazines soon.

Bauer has also axed Dolly and, of course, CLEO. But Cosmo is the biggest of them all.

It’s been tough times for Hearst in the US too. Last week, the publisher axed three dozen staffers, including Michele Promaulayko, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, the publisher’s marquee title. She was replaced by Jessica Pels, 32, who’s been running cosmopolitan.com since January. The print edition of women’s lifestyle stalwart Redbook, which had been rolling off the presses since 1905, also bit the dust; next year the brand will live on solely as redbook.com.

“Nobody wants to put up the white flag first and say, ‘We’re going to substantially reduce the cost of our top editorial positions,’ because it looks like a sign of weakness to the ad community,” said Reed Phillips, managing partner of media investment bank Oaklins DeSilva and Phillips. By winnowing out older talent, Hearst can “put in place younger, more digitally focussed executives” and save money.

That’s the tricky position I find myself in: I’m an older, more digitally focussed journalist. The two don’t really seem to go together in most people’s minds.

But, as that’s the odd, centaur-like creature I’ve become, I’ve been pondering what I would have done to try and revive Cosmo before consigning it to the scrap heap of publishing history.

I love renovating stuff on a shoestring budget. It’s what got me the better part of a house in a nice part of Sydney. I bought and cheaply renovated and sold handsomely; and bought and cheaply renovated and sold handsomely …

In the past few years I’ve done the same in the digital publishing space … well, apart from the selling handsomely at the end bit …

And I’ve decided I would have turned Cosmo into an intelligent website for women that had a monthly magazine attached to it.

I’d have taken Cosmo waaaay back to its roots. Did you know it was called The Cosmopolitan when it was first published and distributed in 1886? I think that’s got a nice ring to it.

In 1905, it really found its feet when William Randolph Hearst purchased it and brought in journalist Charles Edward Russell, who contributed a series of investigative articles.  Other contributors during that period included George Bernard Shaw and Jack London. It’s a lot way from the sex tip years.

I wonder if there’d be life in a website/magazine that commissioned awesome writers and gave women interesting opinions and views and laughter and tears. Some serious stuff, some light stuff. Something you look forward to grabbing at the airport when you want some great reading on the plane.

Something smart but not too high brow. Ditch the sealed sections and spangly covers.

Ah, it probably wouldn’t have worked. The reality is that it’s bloody hard scoring ads in both print and digital these days. And if you can’t get those, you can’t pay your bills.

I’m sorry to see Cosmo go. She was very good to me and so many other people who worked with me on Level 5 at 54 Park Street. Many of them are still my dear friends today. I’m catching up with Cass, above on the left, in the next few weeks.

Those were the days my friends, we thought they’d never end.

I’ll never forget one of ACP’s business execs muttering – when the tide first began to turn on magazines – “Rome is burning and everyone’s off getting spray tans.”

We thought the spray tans and the junkets and cocktails and designer freebies would always flow. We couldn’t imagine a world without women’s magazines and the heady perks that came with working on them.

There was no Facebook back then. No Google search. The only things you could do on your mobile phone were call or text someone.

Now no-one reads a magazine or a newspaper on the train or bus, they’re all scrolling on their iPhones. Me included.

Vale Cosmo.

Song of the day: Mary Hopkins “Those were the days”

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2 thoughts on “Those days are over

  1. Yes, so very true Alana. Thank heavens there was no social media back then or we would have disillusioned a million readers with our beachside daggyness.

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