It’s been close to four months since Nicole Byers switched titles at Bauer Media Australia to become the new editor-in-chief of The Australian Women’s Weekly. She had been editor-in-chief of OK! for the past seven years.
Byers may well look forward to her Christmas break, which she tells readers about in the Editor’s Letter in the Christmas edition of Australia’s biggest-selling magazine.
Byers was married during the year and her start at The Weekly was delayed by a pre-arranged honeymoon. She started work at what was crunch time for the magazine. With 13 editions each year, the busy November-December period sees three editions go on sale within a two-month period, including the always anticipated Christmas edition.
During the honeymoon she answered a few emails and also had a think about what lies ahead for the title in 2018.
“After many years working on weekly magazines it was unusual to again to be working with long lead times.”
While Byers has edited several editions of The Weekly so far, she told Mediaweek she cannot yet claim full credit for an edition that covers commissioning of all stories. “I have been able to edit the November and December editions from beginning to end, but I was lucky to have had a lot of great stories that were instigated many months before I started.”
The November Editor’s Letter, called From My Desk, in The Weekly, was her official greeting to readers.
The bond between the editor and the audience is perhaps stronger at The Weekly than at any other magazine in Australia. “I am still amazed every day by the number of phone calls, hand-written letters and emails that the rest of the team and I receive.
“The feedback makes my job a little bit easier as the readers tell you very quickly when they like something or when they don’t like something. It helps us craft future issues knowing what is pushing people’s buttons.”
Celebrities photographed in a Christmas portfolio include David and Libby Koch, Miranda Tapsell, Rachael Finch, and the four members of Human Nature with their kids photographed at home in Las Vegas.
Cooking of course remains a key part of The Weekly offering with 62 pages of Festive Food in the Christmas edition. “Long before I started here, my family always turned to The Weekly for Christmas recipes. It would not be a wise move for an editor to cut down the food in the Christmas edition.”
As to changes Byers has made since arriving, she said her focus was on making sure there was a good cross-section of stories for the audience. “I want to make sure we have light and shade from investigative pieces to political profiles as well as more light-hearted feelgood reads from across the country.”
And the royals of course.
“I am pretty pleased about 2018 with a royal wedding and a baby.” But working out how to make the most of the different pieces of royal news is debated inside the offices of The Weekly. The January edition of the magazine is out at the end of December, which is the first opportunity the title has to cover the official announcement of the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. “We are always looking for real exclusives and that is the difference with The Weekly and our royal coverage. We don’t want to overdo it, and instead offer something that is of real value to our readers.
“There will be special royal editions of the magazine after the wedding and the baby.
“We want to to make sure we have content that crosses generations. Readers don’t just want to read about their own demographic. I am looking for stories that resonate with women no matter their age.”
Byers is more than happy Harry and Meghan are doing much together even before their marriage, which she notes is somewhat unprecedented. “Our traditional readers always love the royals, but Meghan is someone who will also appeal to a younger generation of readers as she is a modern addition to the royal family.
The power of The Weekly is something that Byers has marvelled at since she arrived. “People do respond quickly to emails and answer your phone calls, which is lovely.”
During her first week on the title, Byers found herself sitting alongside Ita Buttrose, Lucy Turnbull and Julie Bishop among others at the judges lunch for The Weekly’s Women Of The Future Awards. “It was a little intimidating but also very inspiring and encouraging to be in the room with those women.”
The Bauer CEO Paul Dykzeul has explained to Mediaweek this year the focus at the publishing company is on their biggest brands.
“I really get that message from him too, which is very encouraging,” said Byers. “He recognises the power of The Weekly masthead and he has likened us to being the flag bearer at the Olympics – no pressure. [Laughs]
“The magazine is the jewel in the crown for Bauer and it is great to have so much support from the CEO.”