Next magazine has recently embarked on a mission to reinvigorate itself after a period of significant circulation decline, and as well as a thorough redesign, a new masthead to give it a more sophisticated feel and a new size, it's also targeting a younger audience, taking a few more risks and flouting a few well-established commercial publishing rules. And its just launched June issue is maintaining that trend by breaking with more than two decades of tradition and featuring a man—MasterChef judge Josh Emett—on the cover.
“Our magazine celebrates Kiwis who are intelligent, successful, passionate and driven,” says Sarah Henry, the ex Woman's Day editor who took over the editorship of Next in November. “Josh’s road to success from Waikato farm boy to world renowned chef is one of guts and determination, vision and talent. These are attributes we all admire and aspire to emulate. The fact that he is a bloke comes second to that ... Our readers want what’s now, what’s new and what’s next. And featuring a man on our cover is another surprise."
Next is New Zealand’s second largest selling monthly magazine behind its ACP-run sister title, Australian Women's Weekly. But while Australian Women’s Weekly has largely maintained its average net paid circulation since 2005, the latest ABC figures show average net paid circulation for Next was down to 37,837 from the apex of 67,564 in 2005, and, as Henry says, it was "stuck in a bit of time warp and needed a kickstart".
She says the magazine is now aimed at readers between the ages of 35 to 45, which is a decrease from its previous focus of 45-55. It also has more of an international focus and, as the last few issues show, it's happy to push the boundaries a bit further than before, with its relaunch issue featuring Robyn Malcolm, Amanda Billing and Sonia Gray in the buff and the cover of its April issue featuring Angela Bloomfield in black and white, which is considered a commercial publishing no-no.
While Henry says the sales figures are confidential, she says there was a phenomenal response to the Bloomfield cover, the Body Issue was a great success on the newstand and, overall, readers appear to be enjoying the changes, with 91 percent of the women surveyed in a panel saying they liked the magazine more now than they did at the same time last year.
She says it's about mixing it up so the magazine is less predictable, but she does wonder if some of those unwritten publishing rules (for example, green covers don't sell) are based more on hearsay than on the truth. You obviously need a balance between what works and what will capture attention, but she says the success of the April cover was largely a result of breaking the rules and making an effort to stand out among the many titles on the newstand.
The same rule applies for the June edition, and it's in keeping with international magazine trends like Elle UK, which has announced that David Beckham will feature on the cover of their July issue, or the historically male-dominated technology mag Wired, which recently featured a female engineer on the cover.
“It’s not about men and women any more. It’s about success and how to get it whatever that success may be,” she says.
- You can have a peek at the new edition of Next here.