I’m going to try and write this post without sounding like a nana. Or one of those people who say ‘back in my day’ and then proceed to reference something totally irrelevant.
Because while I was watching the magnificent Paper Giants last night on ABC1 (the second and final instalment airs tonight at 8:30) I got thinking about how magazines have changed. How they’re just not relevant anymore. Not compared to the power and influence they once wielded.
No matter how much of a mag junkie you may be (your numbers may be dwindling but I know there are still some of you left), you cannot watch a show about the birth of Cleo magazine and its early years and not make a comparison to mags in 2011.
And not in a good way for 2011.
There was a surprising amount of excitement a few months ago when it was announced a reality show called Park Street was being made about ACP – the magazine company (located at 54 Park St) that publishes Cleo, Cosmo, Dolly and pretty much every other magazine you’ve ever read.
ACP is also the place I began my magazine career – and ended it almost 15 years later.
After the surprise success of The September Issue, the brilliant documentary about Anna Wintour and American Vogue from 2009, and the pop cultural impact of the book and movie The Devil Wears Prada a few years earlier, a local look at Australian magazines was bound to be thrilling.
There was much anticipation about the reality series, which promised a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on at some of Australia’s most iconic magazines. Almost immediately, rival publisher Pacific Publications announced they too were going to film a reality show about Marie Claire and its editor Jackie Frank.
Park Street premiered last month and the response was not terrific. I’m not going to bag the show or the people in it. I know them, I like them, they work hard. The market has never been tougher. I watched a couple of episodes of Park Street and it was harmless enough but, like many, I was underwhelmed.
What can you say when the two main storylines in the first episode were Jessica Mauboy being late to a Cosmo photo shoot and the threat of rain before a party to celebrate Cleo’s swimsuit issue (Jessica eventually turned up and it didn’t rain – phew and phew)?
Granted, this was a ‘reality show’. Not scripted but heavily censored. Fragranced even. After all, it was funded by ACP and many of the most interesting characters left in that building refused to be involved. Wisely. It’s a risky game to leave your reputation and potentially your career to the producers of a reality show whose own livelihoods depend on making interesting television.