Instead of profiling women at the helm in this industry, as we would normally do for Women in The Media Awards, we have asked top women in the different sectors their opinions and we are giving it to you straight. Today, we ask New Media Publishing executive director for creative, Irna van Zyl, her opinion on women at the top of the magazine industry.
Are there enough women at the helm in magazine publishing?
Magazine companies currently have far more women in charge than ever before, but historically it has been very much a man’s world. That is definitely changing.
In my environment I see more and more women in charge, like Charlene Beukes and Liezl de Swardt, general managers of huge magazine divisions at Media24.
At New Media Publishing we have appointed three female general managers as opposed to one male when we restructured into business units recently.
You are one of the top women in the magazine industry. What does this mean to you?
I am grateful for opportunities that came my way and for which I have worked hard.
Do you believe it is important for more women to rise above editor in this industry? If so, why?
I believe people should be rewarded on merit. Women happen to be very good managers and most magazine readers are female, therefore bigger representation and also more diversity – not only of gender but also races and cultures – should be welcomed as our products are read by a wide variety of people. But I would hate to exclude competent men for the sake of appointing a woman.
The magazine industry is not consolidated. While newspapers have a strong editor’s forum for example, magazine houses do not stand together. Why?
I can only speculate about this one. There are so many more different kinds of magazine products – niche titles, general magazines, custom titles, business-to-business, internal magazines – that it is probably difficult to find enough common ground. That is compared to newspapers where actuality, politics and business play such a large part. Having said that, I do think MPASA [the Magazine Publisher’s Association of South Africa] could be more dynamic.
Would it be beneficial if they did? Please explain your answer.
From a specific consumer magazine perspective there would be benefits in a unified body to negotiate for better print and distribution prices or advertising revenues but individual business interests and competitiveness will always dominate decisions. This is not necessarily wrong.
The magazine sector is oversubscribed but still magazines are launching. Why is this? How does that impact on the rest of the sector?
Market forces will determine if a new launch is successful. Competition is not a bad thing. It keeps everybody on their toes, so I welcome new voices, new products and new thinking.
There is no shortage of women’s voices in magazines but are we giving the right messages about women in terms of violence, harassment, body image etc?
It’s complicated. Most women’s magazines tackle issues that are relevant to women alongside the beauty and the fashion pages, including more sensitive matters of harassment, violence against women, etc. Yet most magazines are also aspirational and aim to entertain as well as inform. A good editor will manage to find the right balance.
Follow Irna van Zyl on Twitter @irnavanzyl