Helen McCabe says covers like Oprah Winfrey are important to compete in ‘brutal’ market

AWW_OCTOBER_COVERThe Australian Women’s Weekly editor-in-chief Helen McCabe has stressed the importance of securing high profile cover talent and exclusive interviews as a way to compete in a “brutal” and busy market.

Speaking to Mumbrella on the October issue of the magazine which features Oprah Winfrey on the cover as part of a “world exclusive” interview with the Weekly’s Caroline Overington, McCabe said she doesn’t take “big sales for granted”.

“I’m always conservative and worried, I never take big sales for granted. I think it’s much harder to wow audiences in modern publishing because of the sheer volume of stories and the number of platforms people are consuming their information on,” she said.

“We had a good strong sale out of Maggie [Tabberer] last month, and that was a surprise factor, no one had seen her on the cover of a magazine since 2006 so there was a bit of a wow factor from that. Also a bit of a wow factor of choosing a 78-year-old icon of Australian fashion to grace the cover of a magazine.

“Oprah is probably more of an obvious cover personality but having said that, she’s never done an interview with us. I’ve been very deliberate in how I’ve sold the story on the cover to let you know it’s our story, it’s by Caroline Overington so that there’s no misunderstand that this is a buy-in.”

In the context of a print magazine industry in decline, Bauer Media’s The Weekly saw its circulation drop by 5.9 per cent according to the most recent Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, McCabe said getting the right talent on the cover and securing big profile pieces is “very important”.

“You are competing in a much busier marketplace so that means you have to be even better then you have been at what you do,” she said.

Last month's cover featuring Maggie Tabberer

Last month’s cover featuring Maggie Tabberer

“The Weekly has always secured great interviews since the time it began but we now have to top ourselves month in, month out. We do put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the interviews.

“The market is very brutal, if the magazine and the cover aren’t up to scratch, it’s pretty brutal to us. The Weekly is as punished by that as any other media outlet.”

Speaking about the process to secure the Oprah interview, McCabe said she thought it would never happen.

“We had tried to get Oprah for ever. Certainly I’ve been in this chair for six years and she’s been one of those on the list of pie in the sky interviews that you want alongside Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Ellen deGeneris, Princess Mary and we’ve slowly been picking them off,” she said.

“When she came to Australia a few years ago we pushed really hard believing we should get it. It was pretty clear to us back then that we would never get it firstly because she has her own television network and magazine company. So if she’s going to give interviews she has multiple platforms of which to do it and giving a shoot and interview to a rival magazine, and Oprah magazine does sell in Australia, it was never going to happen.”



While McCabe admits she doesn’t “quite know what was different this time” she suspects there is an expectation that Oprah’s upcoming trip to Australia “won’t necessarily be as massive a deal as the first tour”.

She said she had discussions through corporate relationships before going to the Oprah Winfrey Network where negotiations began.

“It was exacerbated slightly by time-zone difference, it’s very hard to get on the phone and talk to someone in media who’s beginning their day when you’re ending yours,” she said.

“We’ve got Caroline Overington based in LA for a year and in the end I handed over negotiations to Caroline who was on the ground. It went pretty smoothly.

“There were no demands put on this interview, there was no area that was off-limits, there was no threats to walk off if the wrong question was asked, there was no demands for mentions of products, movies, plays, any of the usual requirements that come with these deals.”

Miranda Ward



Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.