Real life king Paul Merrill takes the helm of Take 5 as Belinda Wallis departs

paul merrill headshotPaul Merrill – the man who brought Zoo magazine to Australia and once described his UK readers as having “three different kids by three different prisoners” – is to take the helm of Bauer Media’s Real Life Weeklies portfolio.

Merrill will be editor-in-chief of both Take 5 and Lucky Break, which is published in New Zealand.

Take 5 editor Belinda Wallis was made redundant on Friday, Mumbrella can reveal. Lucky Break editor Megan McChesney will step down from her role with a spokesman saying that it was unclear whether she will stay with the company.

Wallis has been with the title since 2004 and editor since 2005.

take 5lucky breakTake 5 is one of the biggest circulating weekly titles in Australia, behind Woman’s Day, New Idea, and That’s Life. In the last set of audited numbers for Take 5, circulation fell by 10.8 per cent from 200,494 to 178,761. The magazine’s cover price is $3

Merrill made his name with reality title Chat in the UK which grew circulation by taking an unashamedly populist approach. In an interview with UK Press Gazette in 2002 he said of his Chat readers:

“By the time they are 18, most of our readers have got three different kids by three different prisoners and have affairs with their stepdads.

“Tried and Tested Anti-Depressants – because obviously most of our readers are on anti-depressants, not because they read Chat, but because of the lives they lead. And we did make-up tips to cover black eyes and facial bruising. Unfortunately, domestic violence is something they also suffer, and rather than just ignore it, we thought we’d give them some handy hints on how to cover it up.

“We did a health special on the best low-tar fags on the market and we got slagged off for that, but there is no point in doing a health feature on how to give up smoking, better to accept they are going to fag away until they go to an early grave and buy them a few extra days by suggesting they go low tar.

“They don’t need any persuasion to sell their souls and tell us their life stories for a couple of hundred quid. Two hundred quid to them is two weeks’ wages.”

During his time at the helm of chat, circulation rose by 50 per cent. One competition offered readers the chance to “win a bath with a boy band”.

After Chat, Merrill launched weekly lads mag Zoo in the UK, before moving to Australia to launch it here. He left ACP, which later became Bauer, in 2011.

Wallis: Out?

Wallis: Out

McChesney: No longer editor

McChesney: No longer editor

In today’s announcement from Bauer, Jayne Ferguson, publisher of Bauer’s weekly magazines said, “In order to successfully grow our Real Life Weeklies’ business we need to publish as a single unit to maximise brand synergies and expertise across print and digital.

“Paul has a great understanding of the Real Life magazine and puzzle market and its potential for growth, and I am looking forward to working with him on this important initiative.”

Merrill said in the statement: “I’m thrilled to be joining Take 5 and Lucky Break at this exciting time. Not only are we combining two excellent editorial teams into one operation but we are expanding our brand extension program at the same time.

“The real life and puzzles market was where I cut my teeth in magazines and I can’t wait to get stuck in and tell some amazing stories.”

Last year Merrill pubished his memoir: A Polar Bear Ate My Head. He discussed his career with Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes at last year’s Mumbrella360:


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