Green with Outback envy

Today I experienced a new emotion: magazine envy.

It wasn’t a pretty sight either. Goodness only knows what Mark, the editor of Outback, thought  as I sat stupidly gaping as he brought out issue after issue of one of the nicest-looking publications I’ve ever seen.

outback

(I realise I’ve broken a load of copyright/reproduction laws here, but I’m hoping Mark won’t mind – I just wanted you to get some idea of what I’m talking about).

I’m guessing this post is of no interest to normal people, so you might want to skip along here. Apparently there’s a rubbishy cricket match on, maybe you can go and watch that for bit. For the print media geeks among you, you would love this.

Outback is published by the company which owns RM Williams, an iconic rural clothing brand here in Australia. It’s not a farming publication as such, but it covers agricultural issues (this month’s magazine has a feature on the shortage of ag workers) as well as anything that’s happening in rural life, such as country artists, places to visit, environmental issues and so on.

Read by about 250,000 people, the majority of whom live in rural areas, the magazine attracts readers from a variety of backgrounds and incomes by having one key theme – it’s stories have to be positive (even if they’re tackling tough issues such as depression) and solutions-driven.

The pictures are given room, features can go up to 6000 words and involve going out to the farms and meeting people, and the paper it’s printed on doesn’t feel like it’ll disintegrate after a couple of flicks through.

Aside from the production standards, Mark and his team have a clear understanding of what their readers want, the direction the magazine should take, and what they should devote their energies towards.

Articles aren’t published online, not because Mark is a web philistine (in fact, he’s the first journalist I’ve met who agrees with me on the value of Twitter as an information source), but because being online doesn’t make him money.

Instead the information inside the magazine is promoted as a premium product that people should pay for. Mark has plans to create an online version of an Outback sister paper, which he will trial before considering whether to do the same with Outback, but it will be a paid-for service. And he’s confident people will pay for it thanks to the reputation of the RM Williams brand, the magazine and its content.

What’s more impressive, in a time of declining print readership, is that Mark and his team are also launching more publications, as he’s so confident that rural audiences are committed to the magazine format at the moment.

I know a few people in the publishing world (one in particular) who would say this model is old-fashioned and won’t work in future, but when you see the quality of content that’s delivered from giving people the time to dedicate to stories, it reminds you of why writing is such a great job.

Sorry, Dad, another serious post. I’ll try to be funny next time…

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