What young women want

Jane Waterhouse is hugely optimistic about the current generation of young women and the Birdee magazine brand.

In 2013, Birdee was born out of sheer frustration with young women’s magazines. Call it an anti-mag or an antidote for a generation of young women that are so remarkably different to their mothers, and yet no major publisher seems to have noticed them.

Never has there been a generation more educated, more socially aware, more globally connected than millennials. The gaping hole left between Dolly and Girlfriend magazines (that talk boy bands, modelling contests and nail polish) and Cosmo and Cleo (that focus on grooming young women to be more attractive and sexually available for the men in their lives), was an opportunity for us at We Magazines.

The editorial of these magazines assumes that a young woman’s self-esteem and security is dependent on her success with boys, or how fashion forward she is. They have a place (although as the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures show, that place is quickly being abandoned), and young women will always be interested in sex and nail polish, but we believed there was more to this generation – much more.

It seemed to us that many of the magazines aimed at young women were perpetuating the ‘girl problem’.  Looking at the generation of women we talk to atThe Hoopla (women 40+), we saw alarming statistics around domestic violence, homelessness, the gender pay gap, and a lack of female representation across the board, and we often questioned whether we were progressing at all.

Our decision to launch Birdeemag.com was not about abandoning the Boomer generation of The Hoopla, but about turning our focus toward young women, where we felt real change was possible.

When I embarked on our research into this demographic, I was personally a little cynical, and expected to be underwhelmed by their priorities and interests. Always one to hire people who are smarter than me, I put my faith in our potential editor Hayley Gleeson – a remarkable young woman who challenged my views every day.

We held good old focus groups; we followed girls on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; we followed global trends and we watched how the success of Lena Dunham’s TV show Girls was galvanising young women (and is diametrically opposed to Sex and the City which defined the generation before them).

We listened really closely, and what we heard was a hunger for social change and gender equality– a passion so refreshing that suddenly I realised these girls were more motivating and intimidatingly smart than any Australian politician currently in the media.

Passion is one thing, but talent is another, and these girls could write with humour, intelligence, authenticity and unbridled freedom that left me more hopeful for women than I had ever been.  Hillary Clinton was the one who said the business of the 21st century is women, and Birdee was born as a raft to carry this new breed of women into new waters.

Our job as publishers is to keep giving them a voice – a place where their political opinions, expressions of feminism, sexual interests, passion for thrifty fashion, and love of food, mental health issues and magnificent art can be showcased and adored.

Birdeemag.com and the more recently released Birdee Newspaper are globally unique. More than130,000 women read the site from over 50 different countries every month, but our greatest following outside of Australia is in the US.

As for the business model, the newspaper has a cover price of $4 and the website content is free.  Native, sponsorship and display advertising packages on both mediums have attracted brands from the following categories so far – book publishers, arts and entertainment, giftware, health food, feminine hygiene, online fashion, education.

The cover of a newspaper, like any magazine, has to work hard. At Birdee, we have a very simple, anti-magazine cover philosophy: beauty in a different way.  We believe that our cover star’s body and clothing are less important than her story and her mind. We are determined not to get caught up in cleavages, heavy make-up and retouching, and instead feature fascinating young women in all their rawness in the hope that today’s young women will know that of themselves: that they are enough.

As every cover of Birdee Newspaper reminds readers, our publication is: “A place to be clever, to laugh, to stand up for what you believe in, to feel good about being yourself.”

Long may Hayley and the girls do just that.

Jane Waterhouse is CEO and publisher at We Magazines.