Scores of grateful letters poured in last April when Ms. Tebbel put the attractive but far from skeletal Emme Aronson, size 16 (the Australian average is 14), on the cover to promote its Big Issue, featuring "a global roundup where fat is fab." The issue was followed by "No Diet Day" in May, also a success with readers.
But advertisers were not pleased with New Woman, published by Rupert Murdoch's nephew Matt Handbury, which entered the market eight years ago promising to challenge the traditional women's magazine mix of diet, man-catching and beauty tips.
"Nobody wants to buy a lipstick being modeled on a big, fat, frumpy woman," says Kirsten Burgoyne, one of the image-makers behind cosmetics advertising. "It would be foolish to promote cosmetics in a magazine with larger or unattractive women."
Ms. Tebbel says that after the Big Issue, Gay Bryant, now editor-in-chief at Murdoch Magazines, suggested "we should look at more `how to find a man and keep him' stories." Ms Bryant says the issue "raised some hard issues". There was a contradictory message, she says. "The magazine was saying that how a woman looks is not at all important, in a magazine that takes advertising for cosmetics, fashion and fitness products. Advertisers raised the issue. We raised it our-selves. It's tough."
Readers' enthusiastic responses were, however, backed by circulation figures which remained stable at around 116,700 while its rivals from Kerry Packer's Consolidated Press have all recorded substantial declines.
Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.