Advertising-free magazines: a novel idea?

I still remember the first time I picked up Womankind magazine. Years earlier I’d cut magazine purchases out of my life. Having outgrown Frankie, finding no solace in gossip magazines, and rejecting mass consumption and a ‘typical’ consumer lifestyle, I found my inspiration and need for a traditional women’s magazine was waning. That was, until a striking publication with the image of a stern Frida Kahlo formed from tiny collaged flowers caught my eye in a bookshop.

It only had three small headlines—if they could even be called that—but one in particular stood out: ‘Women as revolutionaries’. My interest was piqued. I googled the masthead, pleased to discover it was Australian, but even more pleasantly pleased to discover it was an advertising-free magazine. Incredulous, yet impressed, I purchased it immediately.

Magazines have been synonymous with advertising for decades. However, generally they resisted advertising for a fair while after inception. In Australia, the first magazine with advertisements was the Sydney Literary News. Founded in 1837, it didn’t introduce advertisements until the 1840s. In the US, Time Inc. didn’t let advertising onto its pages until 1955. Many publications wished to avoid the ‘insidious’ nature of advertising which was deemed to not line up with literary values. Today, however, it’s rare to find magazines that exist (or are profitable) without advertising.

But, a small shift appears to be happening, and a growing trend towards cutting print advertising is re-emerging. Womankind is not the only publication to employ this tactic, New Philosopher—the parent magazine to Womankind—crowd-funded to launch their first ad-free issue back in 2013. Now, Prevention—owned by Rodale Inc.—is set to entirely cut advertising out of their print publication by July 2016. (Rodale Inc. is a family-owned American company who also publish titles like Men’s Health and Runner’s World.) Other lesser-known publications that are already ad-free include: Darling, The Sun and Orion.

Due to the rise of the internet and social media, the publishing industry’s current profit model is ceasing to be viable—it’s evolve or die—and many publishing houses are experimenting with new and inventive ways to stay profitable. In the last few years alone, several major Australian publications have closed their doors. Titles like Cleo, Madison, Grazia and The Bulletin, to name a few. At a time when other Australian publications are shutting down, Womankind is apparently growing and thriving.

Flicking through Womankind is an experience to savour. Even though it’s officially listed under the category of Women’s Fashion & Beauty, it really isn’t either of those things. In fact, it’s hard to pinpoint this magazine into any type of genre or category—besides being a magazine for women. It is a magazine with a conscience; offering women more intellectual, philosophical and sociological articles that are in no way compromised by advertisers.

In an interview with ArtsHub, editor, Antonia Case, said, ‘If you think about other products, such as shoes, they don’t have advertising on them. We are exactly the same.’

‘Your margins are a bit lower, but it is not about that. It is not all about profit in this world. There is also an element of doing things right. Being ethical. Having good impact. And for us that is much more important than profit,’ said Case.

You’ve got to give it to Case, according to iSubscribe, Womankind is the fourth most successful magazine in Women’s Health & Beauty, on par with other titles in the same category like Vogue, Marie Claire and ahead of well-established magazine Frankie. It should be noted that Womankind’s cover price is $15, about $5 more than other magazines listed in the same category.

So, does this mean that entirely cutting the costs associated with advertising, subsequently  raising cover prices, and marketing magazines as more ‘ethical’ because of this, is the way forward for the publishing industry? Would this work for other major titles that primarily exist to ‘inspire’ (read: brainwash) women into purchasing products? Or is this an option that few magazines actually have the ability to pull off? After all, Womankind’s success could be attributed not to being ad-free, but to being wholly unique. And if the market becomes saturated with similar ‘ethical’ ad-free publications, are these likely to be just as successful?

And, is a magazine still a magazine if it’s not existing as a vehicle to get products in front of consumers? According to Andrew Calcutt, to anyone in the sales and marketing teams at these publishing houses, probably not. As Calcutt writes in Inside Magazine Publishing, magazines could be defined as ‘vehicles for delivering readers’ eyeballs to advertisers’.

But how do consumers view magazines? Picking up Womankind is inspiring, sure. And informative, yes. And I, the reader, walk away from each copy wanting to be better, and do more. And not even a tiny bit of me wants to run to a store and purchase anything. It makes me feel like all the tools I need to be happy, successful and content in this world, are inside of me. The question is, is there really any room for magazines such as this to thrive in a consumerist society? Or will capitalism eventually win out?

Prevention is a mainstream publication that currently contains advertisements but will be eschewing them as of July 2016. Time.com reports that although the magazine sold more ads in 2015 than 2014, the revenue from these sales was less overall. This has led to Maria Rodale—heiress to Rodale Inc.—to take drastic action and cut print advertisements out entirely. According to Rodale this will lead to savings in production and labour costs. And by coupling it with a higher cover price, Rodale projects that this will make the publication profitable again.

Cutting out print advertising not only saves pages and print in each publication, but it also means that jobs are rendered defunct and whole divisions are no longer required. The Wall Street Journal reports that Prevention will cut 13 ad sales jobs, which is about 50% of the publication’s operating expenses.

‘If you have to run the numbers out with an advertising model, it’s hard to see it ever getting to profitability … With a non-advertising model, it quickly becomes profitable,’ said Rodale.

With a higher cover price, and no advertisements, what will really separate a magazine from a coffee-table book—besides the frequent nature of publication? Are the lines becoming more blurred between the two? And is this necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps the magazine is moving towards something more like a book: a beautifully printed publication to display on a coffee table. A memento to treasure, as opposed to an aspirational sales vehicle that urges us to consume.

Much of Womankind’s success can be attributed to filling a gap in the women’s magazine market, one which most current magazines failed to notice, or maybe, to care about. The current publishing model of making profit purely from advertisements, as opposed to from readers, has led to a decrease in the quality of the magazine as a product, and has me, as the reader, wary of trusting magazines as a source of knowledge and curation—mostly a magazine seems to be at the beck-and-call of the advertisers that fund its pages.

What really is the issue of having the reader of the product, actually paying for the content that they’re reading? Paying for the privilege of digesting a specific curation of content that a magazine—a source of knowledge—has specifically gathered. Just for their niche audience. And to provide value that a reader is happy to pay for. Value which that reader cannot get anywhere else. Yes, knowledge that the reader cannot find easily on the internet either.

I came across a cooking magazine in America who reportedly does this very well. America’s Test Kitchen launched their print magazine Cook’s Illustrated in 1993 and they attribute its ongoing success to giving away little content for free. According to an interview with CEO Christopher Kimball on Gigaom.com their print business is growing. Three of their print magazines have over 1.3 million subscribers.

According to Kimball, ‘I don’t think it’s a question of print being dead. I think it’s a question of a publishing model that’s dead. I’ve always felt you should make the reader pay for content because the advertising driven formula was based upon a rare moment in time when you had lots of advertisers with lots of money and not a lot of places to go. It was short term.’

‘Ninety-nine percent of what goes in our magazines [and] TV shows is based upon surveys that we sent out to readers and viewers, yes. We don’t take advertising, so we don’t have the luxury of telling you what we want to do,’ said Kimball.

What Kimball is saying is an interesting concept; because their publication doesn’t take advertising, they have to give their readers content that their readers actually want. Good, informative content. Because readers are the ones actually supporting the publication. It’s a novel concept, apparently, but really, it makes perfect sense.

Today we live in oversaturated ad-world. Advertorials, popups, sponsored listicles, 30 second videos before sponsored YouTube videos, banner ads. We’re surrounded by advertising 24/7. Of course people are willing to pay a premium to have content that is without advertising. To pay for content that feels ‘authentic’. Content that has no ulterior motive, no underlying ‘insidious’ nature.

Perhaps, instead of thinking magazines are morphing into something entirely new, this is really just magazines coming full circle—slowly making their way back to their literary (and therefore, more pure) roots.

Aloneness on a Sunday afternoon

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My damp hair hangs limply down my scalp and back and I take another sip of my beer, tipping my head back and letting the cool, fizzy liquid stream down my throat.

It’s the start of summer in Melbourne, the warmth just starting to lick over my skin. Not yet a stifling and unbearable heat; it’s not hot enough for the sweat to drip down my chest and pool in my belly button. But it’s the sort of warmth that cocoons me. It’s the sort of warmth where I start to feel like anything is possible. All the cold harshness of winter has finally fallen away, and all I see stretched out in front of me are endless beers and summer BBQ’s. Dips in the pool and the saltiness of beach hair lingering long after jumping back in the car and heading home.

I feel happy and realise that happiness isn’t anything more than contentment. Contentment and worrying about nothing except this moment right here. Right now. Content in being alone, and a freedom from having no expectations of myself, or from others.

Is there truly anything better than this moment right here? Would it be better if I had someone to share it with? I think back to summer moments of my past, hot and sweaty kisses on beaches, and lying together but still feeling so far apart.

I realise there’s lonely and then there’s aloneness. Lonely is a sad feeling, an emptiness. The unfulfilling thoughts and the missing of someone. The missing a part of myself. The feeling of missing a limb.

Aloneness is contentment. It’s the lack of a need to be with someone. It’s the satisfaction of being alone and enjoying my own company. Enjoying the stolen moments by myself. The times of reflection. Happiness. Oneness. Mindfulness and true acceptance of myself. Of my flaws. Of other’s flaws.

It’s needing no one except me. It’s recognising the privilege of alone time. Of having a time out from life. From working. From expectations. From friends and family.

It’s realising I’d rather be alone and by myself, than alone while surrounded by a big group of people. It’s appreciating the friendships I have where all I need is to be in their company.  No need to say anything. No need to discuss, or yell, or even laugh. Just lying in silence together. Doing our own things, apart. But together.

The gravel is rough under my feet. My skin feels tights and dry, I briefly think about going inside to get moisturiser, but I’m enjoying this couch, this moment, this snatch of time too much to move.

There’s a dust that covers everything out here. It’s on my keyboard, under my feet, all over this couch. The grime has worked its way under my fingernails and I’m probably swallowing it as well.

Is there anything better than a lazy Sunday off, I wonder. Doing nothing for no one. Nothing productive. Nothing more than drinking this beer, right here, on this couch. Listening to this music. Needing no one, needing nothing. Just taking in this view. The people walking past. The cars rushing by. It’s just me, the cold beer and this comfy couch.

Death + Love + Life Lessons

Today is the birthday of the first boy I ever loved. He died a few years ago now.

I still remember the night I found out he had cancer. We were broken up, and it hadn’t been amicable.

Looking back now, I think he might have known that he had cancer while we were still together. There was an operation and the removal of a lymph node from his throat – a ‘goider’ he used to call it, much to my laughter. Goider. What a great word, I used to think.

I found out through a mutual friend who worked at the doctor’s surgery that was treating him. I sent him your basic ‘thinking of you’ text. I didn’t feel like I had much right to call or ask to catch up, I had cheated on him and he had found out, and then we had broken up in the worst way possible. Plus my friend who had told me had gone against doctor-patient confidentiality. So really, no one was meant to know about it, bar who he chose to tell.

He had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a cancer that has pretty good odds of being beat – and he fought it and he got through it. And that was that, I thought.

But it wasn’t.

The cancer came back, and he kept it a secret from almost everyone. I was living and working in Melbourne when I got the call from a friend on the Gold Coast. I was grabbing a shoe from the backroom – in the middle of serving a customer – and my phone rang.

“I didn’t want to have to be the one who told you this… but I thought it would be better than you learning through social media. It’s Matt…” he said.

My heart sank. I just knew he was going to tell me he was dead. I just knew it. I knew what was coming.

“He died, last night. The cancer came back.”

I flew up to Queensland for the funeral, I felt odd and out of place. I felt like I had no right to be there, and no right to be so sad. We hadn’t seen each other in over four years, we had barely even spoken, and things had ended so so badly. The last time I’d seen him we were sitting on Burleigh hill and we’d been broken up a few weeks, we’d had drunken sex a few days before and I wanted to get back together. I was asking if he still loved me, and he was telling me he couldn’t do it any more.

My biggest regret was I never told him the truth. When he confronted me about cheating on him, I lied. I denied and denied and denied. And I never said sorry. I never apologised. I was too stubborn, and too proud. I hurt him, and I didn’t have the guts to own up to my mistake.

And now it’s too late.

I learned so much from losing him. From his death:

  • Never take anyone for granted
  • Never be too proud to tell someone what they mean to you
  • Never be too stubborn to apologise when you’ve made a mistake
  • Never hold a grudge
  • Always be honest
  • Own up to your mistakes
  • Be better, do better, treat those you love better

Matt, you’re one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever had the privilege of loving. You were so warm, so generous, so giving. You never had a bad word for anyone. Look, you weren’t perfect. We didn’t have a perfect relationship. You didn’t always do the right thing. I didn’t always do the right thing. But I loved you with all my heart and I love everything that you taught me. You helped shape the person I am today.

And I’ll fucking love and miss you forever and ever.

You’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

Another.

He reaches across and tucks some strands of hair behind my ear. Inside, I recoil from his touch. It feels so personal. So tender. I remember how Andy used to look at me in that way and I would look back at him like that and tenderly stroke his cheek in return.

I can’t look at this boy in front of me. I feel vulnerable. Exposed. I imagine I see my heart sitting outside of my body, just chillin’ in front of my jacket’s pocket. And it’s looking at me and screaming, ‘Don’t go down this path. Don’t let me get hurt. I’m fragile. And small. And I need to stay hard to keep you alive.’

But, instead of listening to the words pouring out of my heart’s mouth, I let myself feel this boy’s touch. And his warmth. And then I look in his eyes and I see his vulnerability. I see his hurt and his pain. But also his strength and his love.

And in all of that, I see myself, too.

‘..that’s where you went that time?’ I hear someone say from behind me, snapping me out of the moment.

We decide to leave, pay the bill and walk downstairs, out onto the street. The Melbourne air feels crisp and cool on my skin compared to the sweaty heat inside the bar. The empty street is ghost-like and the sounds of our footsteps echo as we make our way down towards the tram.

The bustling markets have been replaced by long shadows that stretch for miles down forgotten alleyways where, hours before, people were having lively conversations over burritos and over-baked churros.

‘I guess I’ll see you when I get back,’ he says as I’m about to cross the street.

‘Ahh, yeah.’ I reply, realising we’re saying goodbye for awhile. ‘I’ll be in Sydney but for sure when I get back.’ I look at him, not meeting his eyes.

He kisses me on the mouth, hard, and I reach around to squeeze his hip. His flesh feels warm around my fingers; his tongue wet and slimy in my mouth.

I reluctantly let go and turn to cross the street. ‘I’ll see you when I get back,’ I say again. Not really knowing if I will.

‘Goodbye,’ he calls after me, the words drifting across the empty street.

I don’t look back.

Mid-year Reflections

Looking back at this blog, for me at least, is super interesting. Man, I’ve come so so far over the past two years, it’s super crazy.

Here I am, actually feeling half-way to adulthood. Happy, confident and secure in myself.

It’s hard to read some of my older stuff, especially when I was going through so much hurt, but, at the same time, I’m so happy that I recorded it because how else could I appreciate where I am today without those vivid memories?

Even just reading my latest post (My annual ‘I need to get my shit together’ – where I set some short and longer term goals for the next few years) – I can actually see that I’ve unwittingly been achieving them – and faster than the timeframes I gave myself. And it wasn’t even a conscious thing. Even just writing them down and putting them out there (or considering and thinking about them) was enough to start those wheels in motion. I FEEL SO GREAT AND HAPPY WITH MYSELF.

I guess this is also why I haven’t written anything in awhile. Whenever I feel happy and content I don’t really feel the need to write anything (which is why my writing is always so fucking raw and depressing – I swear, I am generally an optimistic and happy person, but my optimism and happiness is derived from writing out all the shit cunt shit that I’m feeling).

Right now, I’m sitting in the State Library of Victoria (yes, I moved back to Melbourne). I ended up going to the US for a month (ALONE! bar a week-long roadtrip with an old ex bf) and it was so fabulous. I had such a great time. Although I have done a bit of solo travel before, I hadn’t ever committed to a whole month in a strange country where I knew absolutely no-one.

I couch surfed with people I’d never met, I trusted strangers, I made brief travel buddies who taught me things about their various countries, cultures and themselves (as well as myself) and I basically just stood completely on my own two feet.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but it was to me. I know I moved to London alone, but I already had friends living there, and it was just so easy. It didn’t seem to be such a big deal. Or maybe it was and I’m just remembering memories incorrectly – which also seems pretty likely.

I haven’t been bothered dating for awhile – I just got bored of it. Moving to QLD was a nice escape from all that shiz. I slept with randoms knowing it would never go anywhere, discussed feminism with inspiring people and made another great new best friend, a beautiful soul who I know will be in my life forever. I worked hard for free for a publishing start-up, while I worked full-time in a soul-destroying job, and did a course in mental health social work. I got accepted into my dream masters course at Melbourne University and then I moved back here. To a paid (albeit, not much) job in publishing, and NO MORE ADMIN WORK AGAIN. EVER.

Sure, I’m totally poor. But I’m doing something I FINALLY feel passionate about, and happy. So the $$ can wait. And I know they’ll come eventually.

I’ve been doing more and more reading, which I hope, in turn, will improve my writing and help me find my voice. I’m beginning to focus on weaving descriptive passages into my personal experiences, which I hope will make for more publishable writing. I haven’t decided, yet, what I want my first book to be about. But I’ll get there. I am genuinely just so balanced and happy with where I am in my life at the moment, and I can’t say that I’ve felt this way in a long time (or really even, ever).

28 is shaping up to be one of the best years I’ve had so far. Weeeeee❤

Oh, and I struck a deal with my bank to pay the balance of my credit card off with a 50% discount. I AM THE BEST NEGOTIATOR EVER (that terrible horrible job I had in collections has finally paid off).

My annual ‘I need to get my shit together’ post

You can run as far and as fast away as you want in the search of ‘freedom’ but there is one universal and unending truth: you can never run away from yourself.

The last few weeks I’ve had this unnerving feeling of just needing to escape my life. To escape my job, escape this city, escape Australia.

To be overseas and free.

Free of responsibility. Free of commitments and, most of all, free of expectations.

I’m feeling the ever creeping, always present big three-zero looming. And even though experience has taught me that getting older isn’t really all that bad, I feel tremendous pressure to be ‘successful’ by the time that birthday rolls around. Or at least to know what freaking direction I want my life to go in.

The only consistency I’ve had across my life is that there is no consistency.

So with this is mind I have cultivated some short, mid, longer and long term goals to help me stay focused on what I want to achieve and to help me take those smaller steps to get there.

Short term (0-6 months):

1. Pay off my credit card
2. Write 1 opinion piece per month with the aim to be published
3. Write something (no matter how shit) every day
4. Go somewhere overseas in Feb for around a month – aim for the US
5. Move back to Melbourne

Mid term (6 – 12 months):

1. Secure an internship at a publishing company
2. Finish one full time year of post-grad study (communications and publishing)
3. Apply for a J1 visa for the USA
4. Continue writing and work on getting more and more published
5. Save $5-10k

Longer term (1 – 3 years):

1. Move to the US for a year
2. Travel more
3. Try to semi make a living writing
4. Finish my masters

Long term (3 years plus):

1. Write a book
2. Own a cafe
3. More travelling (specifically: live in Tokyo, spend at least 6 months in South America with my family, ride (on a bike!) from Asia to Europe, ride the Trans-siberian train line, see Europe as a more mature adult (read: less drunken nights out) and more. Oh man, so much more)
4. Squeeze in a kid somewhere (maybe. Or maybe not.)

OLD HABITS DIE HARD.

I won’t pretend to remember what you were wearing the first time I met you. I won’t pretend to know where we were, or what was said and I won’t pretend that it was love at first sight. I was drunk and newly single – you really could’ve been any one that night. It’s only by chance that it was you.

I don’t know how many times we met before we became friends. I don’t know how many texts were exchanged and I don’t know if I even thought much about you back then, or if I even thought much of you at all.

What I do remember is dating you during a really fucked up time. So much so, that those events overshadow anything we had together. What I do know is we hooked up a handful of times over the years before we got around to making it official. I do know that we kept coming back to each other, even in spite of other people, and in spite of distance.

I remember having lazy sex with you on your bed with the broken slats. I remember all the times you tried to hold my hand but I wouldn’t – or couldn’t. I remember you going down on me upstairs on the couch while your housemates talked downstairs and I remember it was fabulous.

How did it all end, all those years ago? I vaguely remember your arrogance and laziness. You were selfish and demanding. We always argued. I was closed off and stressed. Self-conscious and young. Inexperienced with relationships – I hadn’t been faithful to anyone yet – and I wasn’t going to start with you.

Maybe this time we could be great. Maybe we’ve always meant to be more than we were. We may have been a byproduct of bad timing, and maybe we needed all those years apart to grow separately, before we could come together successfully.

Or maybe I’m just slipping into patterns of nostalgia because it’s easy. Because I’m sick of being alone.

You’re like getting into an old pair of comfy jeans that remembers the curve of my body. I don’t need to struggle into you to make you fit. We don’t need to start afresh with the introductions and the story sharing. We can just be. So much time has passed that all our old hurts are long forgotten. All those scars healed a long time ago, leaving behind only friendship and pleasant memories of a time from when we were younger. A time when life was a little simpler.

The Inbetweeners.

Whenever I’m between great loves in my life (which is often) I find myself in these inbetween relationships. You know, those relationships that never get defined. There’s never a “talk” and they generally just peter out with neither you or them feeling very sad about it. 

Because when I’m in love, I’m in LOVE. I’m not one of those people who falls for someone easily. In fact, I find it stupidly hard to like people or to want to be in a relationship. Because of this I find myself in these weird little hook ups all the time. They’re fun, the sex is good, but I know I don’t really like them, or respect them. And I most definitely do not let them in. 

If you’re like me, and you’re waiting for a real, deep love connection – it’s lonely. And you need these inbetweeners, even if just for orgasms, or spoons, or head pats, or someone to text so you don’t feel so alone. 

I wanted to write a post about these relationships, because I always forget them. They get left by the wayside, forgotten amongst the fond memories I hold of those “real loves”. The real relationships. 

Just because they were inbetweeners, it shouldn’t belittle their role in my life any less. It doesn’t mean they didn’t play an important part, it was just one filled with less drama, and less feelings and therefore less memories, or writing. 

I’m in one of those in-between relationships at the moment. And it’s nice. He’s nice. I’m nice to him. He’s young. But the sex is fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. 

There are no feelings at all. 

Nada. 

Nothing more than friendship at all. And it’s the same for him. We’re both still getting over past hurts, so it’s nice to have a friend. Who you can bang the brains out of and also get spoons whenever you need. 

Win. Win.