“Publishing has a bright future”: Why launching True North made sense for Bashful Group

True North

• Simon Bookallil and Justine Cullen on the newest independent magazine division

Bashful Group is a group of independent yet connected specialist agencies specialising in advertising strategy and creativity. Earlier this week, they announced the launch of a new independent magazine division, True North, with a focus on consumer and business publishing. While rumours that True North will be looking to revive InStyle magazine have swirled, Bashful hasn’t confirmed anything relating to the title.

Speaking to Mediaweek, Bashful Group chief executive Simon Bookallil said that moving into publishing made sense for the group.

We believe that publishing has a bright future, and as an independent publisher focusing on both digital and real life experiences we also believe that we know what brands want and need from commercial partners. 

“We think there’s enormous opportunities for publishers – not just us, but everyone else – to reach a both passionate and motivated audience while also developing commercially minded and sophisticated content.”

Bashful Group

For True North, Bookallil says that Bashful won’t just be stopping at magazines.

“We’re going to work directly with brands to create purely commercial publications, as well as launching consumer-focused publications that offer quality digital experiences, must-attend events, and exclusive products. We’re looking to potentially modernise legacy brands and launch new brands of our own – luxury content, activations, digital-first, podcasts, events, colabs, etc, etc.”

Attached to True North is former Elle Australia editor-in-chief Justine Cullen, who has signed on as chief content officer.

Cullen told Mediaweek that she wasn’t expecting to return to the magazine world when she got the call asking her to be a part of True North.

Justine Cullen

“Simon had had called me out of the blue and pitched me this idea. At first when he was talking about magazine mastheads, I was a little bit a bit taken aback, because in my mind I had very much moved on. I’d entered a new phase of my career, and I was never expecting to be approached by something like this again. 

“He came out with a few lines that really piqued my interest. One thing that he said was about how he had grown up loving magazines, sitting under his mum’s desk, and for me as a real magazine fan and a lover of the craft, I understand that feeling. He spoke about how he had seen what had been happening and how he was looking at independent publishing as a way forward, and I sat with it for a few days. The longer I sat with it, the more excited I got because I really see that independent publishing is the future.”

Cullen says that the future for True North is bright, with the team working towards realistic but lofty goals.

“I’m really excited to step into the role as chief content officer. I’ve been an editor-in-chief for a long time, and I do love to live and breathe a brand. 

“The idea of creating a publishing arm where I can look at niche titles, I can talk to different audiences, new audiences, and I can be creating things all the time that can speak to different people is really intriguing to me. While I will absolutely be stepping on board as editor-in-chief of the first title that we’ll be launching, I think the really exciting part for me is what comes next.”

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