Frankie and Smith Journal represent a rare breed of magazines that are drawing more readers with each issue, despite a downturn in the industry. Contact spoke to Jo Walker, Editor-in-Chief at Frankie Press, about what it takes to survive in the struggling world of magazines.
Editor and UQ alumnus Jo Walker (Bachelor of Arts ’01, Graduate Diploma in Journalism ’02) didn’t go looking for a career in publications, but she has found her calling there nonetheless. Walker (pictured) grew up in Brisbane and Hong Kong and hopped between a few universities before settling on UQ. She says this worldview has been crucial to her current role.
What led you to study at UQ?
I was one of those people who took a long, long time between the end of high school and finishing a degree. I tried a few different courses, a few different universities, but, with its large Arts department and – unoriginal, I know – the beautiful big campus, UQ drew me in.
Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing?
Oh no, the decision to study journalism came much later. I’d already graduated from my BA, having dropped Law from my original double degree, and I was working in a record store. I sat down and thought, what do I do slightly better than other people? There was one thing on the list – writing. I was writing theatre reviews for a street press magazine at the time and decided journalism was something I wanted to explore further.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen to the magazine industry?
The industry itself is smaller, but the competition has expanded. What we’re competing against these days is not so much other magazines, but smartphones, the internet and Facebook. Content is easier to find online, but so much of it is just publications replicating each other in order to get the coveted ‘engagement’. The biggest change is that the line between content and advertising is becoming very blurred.
So how is frankie bucking the trend, with subscriptions growing, while other magazines are closing their doors?
I think frankie has always been about having a beautiful product: it looks beautiful, the paper feels good in your fingers, and people often tell us they like how it smells, which is weird – but lovely. These days, people sit at computers all day, so to just be able to get away from the screen and have something so substantial and lovely to indulge in – that’s why people still are very attracted to frankie. So I think titles that aren’t providing an experience or something different for their readers are, to my mind, the ones most in trouble.
To learn more about frankie magazine, visit frankie.com.au.
Top 5 favourite publications
1. Riposte–“Beautifully made with quirky features for smart women. They had one recently on America’s oldest park ranger, a 95-year-old woman.”
2. Fast Company – “They always have really cool cover interviews and profile interesting start-up companies.”
3. Love – “My fashion indulgence! They do fun stuff with clothes you could never afford, and the editor used to work on my all-time favourite, The Face.”
4. qz.com – “This clever US news, technology, and silliness publication hired one of my old colleagues, but they also have an Indian take on pop culture.”
5. The Line of Best Fit – “I’ve been reading this London music site since it was just a fan blog – I can’t live without it, or I wouldn’t know what to listen to.”