Cleo Magazine‘s Closing: My Personal Experience

Cleo Magazine‘s Closing My Personal Experience

The announcement of Cleo magazine’s closure means more than just losing an Australian icon. Jobs were lost, and a voice for young Australians.

I know what it’s like to be told the magazine you love, live, eat and breathe is being closed. It happened to me. I was the editor of the Cosmopolitan Extensions titles, which included Cosmopolitan Pregnancy, Bride, Health and Hair & Beauty. I worked for ACP magazines in the heyday, before the internet, when mag’s were women’s bibles. Bridal shops were filled with copies of Cosmo Bride. Pregnant women loved Cosmo Pregnancy for its fresh approach – we spoke to women in a way they could relate covering the important pregnancy milestones as well as offering fashion and beauty advice, unlike medical textbooks, which was basically the only other source of info’.

Cleo Magazine First Cover

Cleo magazine’s launch cover in November 1972.

Related: 500 Things I Know About Working On Cosmopolitan Magazine

But then Coles Baby & Toddler magazine came out – for free. Then Woolworths Baby & Toddler – for free. Then the internet exploded with free information. Women stopped buying magazines. The $9.95 cover price was not a compelling sell (a consequence of supermarkets alternating Cosmo Bride and Cosmo Pregnancy in their pockets, which required the same cover price).

ACP was bought by Bauer Media in late 2012 and magazines started closing left right and centre – Grazia, Madison magazine, and a host of others around me. We had a small team – 13 staff members – but I was shocked to see other more prestigious titles closing around us and constantly wondered, why are they closing and not us?

We were lean. My team were the hardest working, most passionate, underpaid, overworked team ever. They loved the magazine and pulled out all stops to produce an incredible product, issue after issue.

Cleo Magazine cover 1974

Cleo Magazine cover February 1974.

Then I got the call. My publisher at the time was very sensitive breaking the news. He knew how hard everyone worked but it was a decision that was beyond his control. The whole team was to be offered a redundancy. I remember feeling a sense of relief, disappointment, guilt and worry. The relief was that of finally knowing – having closure, and the opportunity to open new doors and pursue other interests after being with the same company and brands for 14+ years. I’d been walking on eggshells for months, watching mag’s close around me, wondering when I’d get the tap on the shoulder. The disappointment was perhaps one of defeat. We’d worked so, so hard, treading water against unbeatable forces to produce great content with constant budget cuts, staff cuts, added workload – and knowing that the team had given their blood, sweat and tears for a magazine they loved and believed in.

I had two pregnant women on staff and my deputy on maternity leave so the worry was natural. They were so talented though, that a big part of me knew they would be snapped up quickly by other magazines, but it didn’t seem fair that these women were losing their jobs at a time they should be celebrating. Oh, the irony of being made redundant while pregnant and working on a pregnancy magazine. I can’t believe that escaped the papers.

Cleo Magazine Adele Cover

The announcement was made in January 2016. Adele cover.

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Everyone was so passionate that of course I was worried about them – their careers, how they were going to take the news and if they’d find work.

It was almost immediate that my team were informed. I felt sick as HR broke the news. The reaction from the staff was mixed. There were tears, there was gratitude, there was disbelief, there was anger.

Tears of disappointment after relentless long hours, creative input and concern for their future. Gratitude at a payout, although it wasn’t much. Disbelief that this living product was ending – many considered Cosmo Pregnancy their baby, after working on it for so many years. And anger at the company, and the death of something they worked so hard to grow.

Cleo Magazine Final Cover

Jesinta Campbell stars on the final issue of Cleo magazine.

I really felt for the staff at Cleo.  They worked tirelessly for something they believed in. They wanted to give a voice to Australian women with limited staff, limited budget and maximum red tape. The speculation of the magazine closing before they were officially told would have been devastating. It’s awful to tread water tirelessly for something you truly believe in with rumours of an eminent closure hanging over your head. To go beyond the call of duty and pull out all the stops in their own time and be the last to know. But if I have any advice it’s this: your passion and dedication to story-telling, journalism, fashion and beauty advice or entertainment transcends and translates to any medium. Be creative. Be passionate. Be nimble. Be embracing of new ideas and ways to share your story. Do what you love and pursue your dreams to reach Australian women in the way you know how. You will land on your feet if you do this. Don’t be a victim of things that are beyond your control. Sometimes forced change is a good thing. I know for myself, and many of my former staff, it was. It led to new, interesting and exciting opportunities we would never had the opportunity previously to pursue. See this as a door opening, not closing.  Cleo Magazine‘s Closing: My Personal Experience

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