When Bauer Media was closed over 230 journalists, freelancers, and copywriters lost their job and the titles they had dedicated years of their lives to. New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, The Australian Woman’s Weekly, and Next magazine were among those lost. Yet the women at the helm of those publications decided this loss wouldn’t be the end of their connection to audiences, and in a matter of weeks, Capsule was born, showing the true creative resilience of our editors.
Bauer New Zealand was closed by its parent company on April 2, a week into our national lockdown. Today the fate of the titles it produced, some with decades of history, is still in the air as news of buyers goes silent. New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, The Australian Woman’s Weekly and Next magazine serviced a combined audience of over 1 million, and the editors that dedicated most of their careers to these titles were made redundant with publications ceased in less than 24 hours.
Previous deputy editor of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Kelly Bertrand, now the founder of Capsule, says after the announcement of the closure the first thing to do was grieve for how much they had lost.
“We were all in a bit of shock and we all went through all those stages of grief you’d expect. There were a few weeks when we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. After too much Netflix and too much wine, we realised that we really missed writing, that’s what we do and that’s what we’ve been doing for decades. We needed to still be able to do that.”
Uncertainty breeds innovation, and that can surely be said for the women behind Capsule, Emma Clifton, Nicky Dewe, and Alice O’Connell and Bertrand. The site started as a way for the editors to continue to tell stories in a meaningful way to our community, yet advanced as the soft launch on May 7 saw higher engagement than the team expected.
“We don’t know what’s happening with magazines nor do we know what is happening globally, with all the uncertainty we wanted to be flexible with it. Yet following the soft launch it went off, and we were happily astounded by the reception that we got.”
Capsule’s audience is said to reflect the modern Kiwi woman. Aiming towards a younger audience that Bauer’s titles often missed. As of today, Capsule’s combined social media following sits at over 4,000 after just two weeks.
“We realised there was a gap in the market as magazines traditionally target the more mature readers, younger readers don’t necessarily go to the supermarket to buy a magazine. A lot of Bauer’s readership did lean towards that older audience, yet we as editors are all part of the younger demographic, so we thought why not write for ourselves for a change.”
With the editors all running print publications, none had extensive knowledge of running a digital-only platform. Yet as Bertrand says this has bred a new need for creativity as the team learns the ins and outs of immediate audience feedback.
“We are not used to the immediacy of having a digital platform. But that’s been the best thing about it, we’ve been able to see real-time the engagement our stories are getting. Most of the world has caught up on digital but a lot of magazines hadn’t.”
The site launched with twenty stories and has an age range of 20-40 to reflect the editors at the helm. Bertrand says although it’s scary not being able to hide behind an 88-year-old masthead, she’s confident the new site has a strong footing already.
“This is a new chance for all of our editors to bring in the experience they had across four titles and curate it into one place. Where else in New Zealand are you going to find stories about female erotica and the comeback of Twilight mixed with some really heartfelt issues, it’s a whole mix and it’s reflective of the modern Kiwi woman, she isn’t just one thing, she’s a mixture of everything.”
Although the women will always feel the loss of the titles, they put a lot of tears and late nights into, they’re hoping to build Capsule up to the point where it can be editorially viable for clients and wider businesses to get involved with, much like they did with Bauer’s content creation arm.
“With the growth of Capsule the first thing we need to do is get jobs, we’re all unemployed still. We still need to pay rent. But following that we’re hoping to build that platform up to something that could support us in some way. We’re hoping to form a content creation arm of the business, which will include writing custom content and sponsored content for clients and other businesses. We’re all experienced in that regard and have experience writing for other brands as most editors do. Hopefully, we can build that up to support the editorial arm.”
The editors are well placed to get this content platform moving at speed, between the four of them and decades in the industry, they already have offers from heavyweight contacts to offer support where they need it.
“Although it’s been nice to write for a bit for ourselves, we’ve already had contacts from big agencies who are interested in what we’re doing, and we’re not even two weeks old nor do we have any numbers to show. We’re starting to respond to those enquires and that’ll get that ball rolling very soon.”
Bertrand says their hearts will always be in magazines, yet what they’ve lost is a testament to what they’ve gained.
“When you get made redundant, especially in the circumstances we did, you can’t take it personally, but it does knock you a little bit. There is no getting around that. To get the response that we did, watching the traffic come in, we were so excited and thrilled and it was a reminder that we are good at our jobs, we are telling the stories of kiwi women for so long to an audience of more than 1 million people combined.
“Just because we didn’t have Bauer anymore and we didn’t have our magazine careers didn’t mean we weren’t good storytellers. Our philosophy is, a story is a story no matter where it’s published.”