Flipping out: Sarrah Le Marquand on News Corp’s new-look Sunday magazines

Body+Soul Stellar

• “Health is such a growing category, and there is so much consumer demand”

This weekend, News Corp Australia will unveil a set of new-look Sunday magazines, with Body+Soul expanding to become a standalone magazine, and Stellar and The Binge Guide pairing up as a flip cover magazine.

The new magazines will be published weekly in The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun, and The Sunday Mail (SA and QLD).

Mediaweek spoke to Sarrah Le Marquand, editor-in-chief of Body+Soul, Stellar, and The Binge Guide about the decision to split the titles, and what the new look magazines will bring to the table.

Deciding to Split

Le Marquand says that the spike in interest surrounding health during Covid validated the decision to bring Body+Soul out into its own publication.

“The idea was to elevate Body+Soul into a premium magazine rather than a section lift out, and to run the two other titles as a flipbook. For Body+Soul, health and wellness and all that it encompasses has become such a growth pillar – Covid really exacerbated that, and that was very much the feedback that we were getting from readers.

“Health is such a growing category, and there is so much consumer demand that it’s warranted going to a stand-alone, but the great part is that it’s remaining a premium magazine.”

For Stellar and The Binge Guide, Le Marquand says the priority was making sure that the presence of the two titles was kept front and center.

“Having the host papers carrying two premium magazines for the first time, the decision was made that The Binge Guide would be flipped into Stellar, and that would allow us to maintain that great presence.”

The Time is Right

For Body+Soul, Le Marquand says that there were a number of factors that made now the right time to go ahead with making the title a stand-alone.

Body+Soul turned 21 earlier this year, and if you look back at that 21 years, how we’ve looked at health over that time has evolved in quite a fascinating way. All of the pillars of health that Body+Soul was catering to – fitness, nutrition, medical advice, GP advice – that’s all still fundamental. But what’s been so interesting to observe is how Australians have now come to see health as also being defined by their mental health, relationships, and sexual wellness.”

Le Marquand says that a shift in content was also a contributing factor.

“We became a lot more news-driven when we re-launched last July. Over the last 10 months we’ve done a lot of beautiful celebrity cover shoots, but we’ve also done covers like Lisa Greenberg, wife of ex-NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, who came out on the cover of Body+Soul as someone who identifies as an alcoholic. That was such a great national conversation to kickstart.

“The fact that the readers responded so well to it made us think “well, this is something that they want’.”

Finally, the success of e-commerce was a surprising, but no less important factor in the decision.

“E-commerce is a platform where we’ve seen tremendous growth, particularly at Body+Soul. We launched a page called The Edit in Spring last year. The QR code has really made a comeback, so we started experimenting with that on our curated content to take the readers to a page where they could shop that content. We’ve had massive success, our conversion rate is well above the industry average. 

“We’ve expanded on our e-commerce in Shop Body+Soul. All of those things meant that it was very much the right time.”

Working Together

With Stellar and The Binge Guide sharing real estate, Le Marquand says that the two titles will work together without treading on each other’s toes.

“They’ll be in harmony with one another, but they don’t overlap. Stellar is very much the home of in-depth profiles, beautiful shoots, and exclusive sit-downs, that’s the space that Stellar operates in, and it continues to own that space.

“I see that working really nicely in tandem with The Binge Guide. What those readers want is character-driven content, they want genre-driven content, and that plays really nicely across streaming and free-to-air TV, which is what The Binge Guide covers.

“They complement each other quite well without cannibalising or overlapping in any way.”

While there are a number of flip cover titles around, Le Marquand says that it’s almost a full-circle moment for the News Corp titles, with Stellar and Body+Soul previously sharing a flipbook.

“It’s interesting with the flipbook magazines, because we were ahead of the curve with that. That was something that the national weekend editor and I had spoken about early last year, and then Covid made it become a reality because we were madly pivoting thinking ‘how are we going to keep producing these two iconic, much-loved Sunday magazine brands through this period?’, and the flipbook magazine was the answer. 

“Now you see quite a lot of flipbooks, we’ve had a lot of people replicate that idea, and I suppose in some ways we’re replicating it ourselves now.”

Looking Forward

Le Marquand says that she’s excited to continue her work with the titles.

“I’m really excited about Body+Soul being a stand-alone premium magazine for the first time. 

“Being part of a magazine that is like ‘yes, we can now help set the agenda on Sunday’, that’s been a fantastic thing to be part of. For that to now grow in its own stand-alone premium magazine, that’s a fantastic thing that I look forward to building on.”

Finally, Le Marquand says that the response she’s gotten from readers has been overwhelmingly positive, and that she hopes the new flipbook will continue to gain readers.

Stellar is coming up to its fifth anniversary in August, so I really like the fact that The Binge Guide will be sitting alongside it. It’s a nice pairing, I think it makes sense. We’ve got a lot of anecdotal feedback over the last 10 months from a lot of people who read Stellar religiously every week but didn’t necessarily read Body+Soul, they say they’ve started reading Body+Soul and vice versa. I think that will happen with The Binge Guide as well with that running in the flipbook with Stellar.”

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