Mercury magazine gets a makeover

Mercury magazine gets a makeoverEditor Amanda Ducker with the first print run of the Mercury's new magazine, TasWeekend. Photo: supplied

Tasmania’s Mercury has offered its readers a more immersive print experience with its new weekend magazine, TasWeekend, which launched on Saturday.

Replacing the Saturday Magazine, the new insert will deliver more engaging reading on Saturdays, the paper’s biggest selling edition, according to Mercury managing director Rex Gardner.

Saturday Magazine celebrated things that were great about the island state and we simply wanted to take that to another level. TasWeekend is a much deeper, richer experience than its predecessor,” Mr Gardner said.

“It’s a similar size but it’s on a better quality stock, 60gsm white news print – it is engrossing for longer. We’re very proud of the first one.”

Editor Amanda Ducker, who trained in journalism at The Australian and later worked in magazines including Elle and Vogue in Sydney and Paris before settling in Tasmania, said TasWeekend offered a more contemporary feel with a “fresh design and fantastic photography”.

The magazine covers a range of lifestyle content with an emphasis on food and wine, books, travel, art and design, all “with a local bias”, from famous chefs around Tasmania to favourite recipes from the local CWA.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve maintained a very high percentage of Tasmanian content, which readers really want,” Ms Ducker said.

“People often need a little inspiration to get out and explore their own patch.”

Mr Gardner said the new magazine “answers all those questions about why people enjoy living here.”

“By the time people have finished reading it they can say gosh, that’s why I love Tasmania,” he said.

Star columnists include writer Hilary Burden, who returned from an international career to live in Tasmania several years ago, and Leo Schofield with his Last Word column.

A new section Ms Ducker said she was especially proud of is Scratch the Surface, which features everyday Tasmanians telling extraordinary stories about their own lives. Last week was a bookshop owner; this week, it’s a white witch.

“We’re always on the lookout for local characters,” she said. “It’s great to have a page devoted to stories like these which otherwise may not be told.”

This weekend’s edition will feature the adventures of Miles Franklin-shortlisted writer Favel Parrett on the Aurora Australis icebeaker as well as look behind the scenes with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

The Symphony story highlighted the mix of cultural sophistication and parochialism that people love about Tasmania, Ms Ducker said. “It’s big enough to have its own symphony, and small enough that you’ll see a few school parents up on stage”.

Mr Gardner said TasWeekend was expected to reach a wider audience and engage them more by harnessing the power of print.

“People in Tasmania, while they’re very digital savvy, they are great consumers of the print product still. Half of our circulation are [print] subscribers, they pay to have it home delivered.

“That’s something we want to build on, we don’t want to lose that.”

A spread of advertisers have jumped on board but “we’re certainly after more and will be pushing hard to get advertsing tailored to the different sections in the publication,” he said.

Mr Gardner reported said there had been “terrific” anecdotal feedback from readers and newsagents, “who are right on board.”

A marketing campaign for TasWeekend has been spread across TV, radio and social media as well as gift packs to newsagents around the state.

“They’re our frontline sales people in a way,” Mr Gardner said of newsagents, “and they’re feeding back some good information to us on how people have engaged with it. But it’s early days.

“We just have to keep up the high standard every week, which is going to be a challenge – but we’re looking forward to it.”

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