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Panpa Bulletin : May 2011
www.panpa.org.au 18 | MAY 2011 | The PANPA Bulletin MEMBER PROFILE Child's play Copeland Publishing co-founder Joanna Love, pregnant with her son James, gets her head around desktop publishing in this 1989 photograph. Inset: Group managing editor Sean Mooney flicks through the Child magazine stable When two young mums began to chase their dream, they never imagined how successful they would be. SOPHIE TARR reports PUBLISHER Gillian Hund reflects on the success of her publishing business and sud- denly has a moment of realisation: "My God, I must have been sleep- deprived for about 20 years." Such sacrifice reflects the energy required to launch a magazine, take it national with no investors and only cash flow -- and more incred- ibly, with almost no publishing ex- perience. And if that was not hard enough, add into the mix some toddlers and small children. Such was the life in the late 80s of mother-of-three Gillian and her business partner, Joanna Love. They began with a dream to cre- ate a publication for women exactly like them -- young mums. Sydney's Child was born. Two decades on, their Copeland Publishing stable features six month- ly Child publications -- in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, plus a thriving website. Publishing was never part of any life plan. Gillian and Joanna met at univer- sity while studying to be teachers. Their inspiration came purely by chance, when Gillian stumbled over a US magazine called Seattle's Child. "It was free, in black and white and had a double-page spread with a calendar listing family events," Gillian recalls. Simple but invaluable, she thought; and more importantly, un- heard of back in Australia. "I could see there would be de- mand for this type of magazine," she recalls. Gillian and Joanna had a few thou- sand dollars in capital and a $13,000 Macintosh computer -- that was it. And they found publishing to be a hungry beast. Gillian remembers those early years as being very tough financial- ly, and neither partner drew a pay check in the first five years of opera- tion. "We were in the middle of a reces- sion. I was pregnant with my third child; that may have helped be- cause [advertisers] felt sorry for me," laughs Gillian. "Free publications had a bad repu- tation then." Joanna says: "We were asked many times why we weren't charg- ing for our publication, and the rea- son for that was that we felt it should be available to all parents, regardless of their means." The publications remain free today. "If mums can't afford a parenting magazine that costs money, they can pick up ours and learn something about how to parent . . . because we're not taught how to parent," continues Joanna. Just as they are self-taught mums, they are self-taught publishers. They worked for years from Joan- na's home, hushing the children while fielding calls from advertisers, and laying out the newspaper by hand with old-fashioned galley strips and messy wax. The wax wrecked the carpets and had to be replaced when Joanna moved out. A challenge for any small publica- tion is distribution. The pair convinced a small cou- rier company, plus cousins, in-laws, friends . . . anyone willing to pitch in -- to deliver the first print run of 20,000 to the community centres, schools, libraries and chemists of Sydney's North Shore. Family and friends could not pitch in now. Circulation of the Sydney publication alone stands at 130,000. All six titles combine for a to- tal distribution of 500,000 copies a month, reaching more than 1 mil- lion parents. Digital competition is the greatest threat to the future of these maga- zines. Joanna says the group will consid- er putting some of its website behind a paywall in the near future. "We will offer a premium level to our site; it's the only way we can do something to make it more worth- while. It's expensive running a web- site," she says. "We have a fantastic backlog of articles. Our archives are really fan- tastic, so if you're a parent with a disabled child -- and my sister has a disabled child -- the back issues about autism or Down's Syndrome are valuable." Gillian says many parental con- cerns, such as bullying, continue to resonate even after 20 years of publishing. "One thing that has changed over the years is that we have ads in the classifieds section for egg donors, and we are recommended by the IVF clinics as sort of the last resort for people seeking donors," she says. "We had a woman who came into the office and said, 'I just thought you would like to meet one of your success stories'. "We wondered what she was talk- ing about. "And then we saw this gorgeous little girl, who was three, and she said she was from one of those ads. "We all started crying." Trust has been an important factor in Gillian and Joanna's success. "We've stuck with our principles," says Joanna. "We've had the support of our families to help us along the way. That's the reason we've kept going." Group managing editor Sean Mooney, a father of two, joined in 2004. He says their determination to "not to talk down to parents" sets them apart from competitors. "A lot of readers tell us their sto- ries, so it's very much a conversation rather than a lecture," he says. Each issue follows a theme -- from food and fitness, to parties and edu- cation. The small editorial team relies largely on freelancers for content. "We try to make sure there's a mix of content -- of people's stories, their own stories about their own parent- ing experiences, as well as academ- ics or specialists in a particular field, such as teaching," he says. That approach has won the com- pany many awards over the years, plus growing recognition from around the world. It won a 2009 PANPA Newspaper of the Year title, and in March the international Parenting Media As- sociation appointed Joanna as presi- dent. "We like to look at issues that are ignored or marginalised in main- stream media," says Sean Mooney. "Even things like incontinence after childbirth . . . it's not a sexy topic and not in the mainstream press too often." But the Child titles do talk about it; in this particular case a reader's personal essay on the topic has been put forward for a gold med- al for "best personal essay" at this year's Parenting Media Association conference. While the publications do not fo- cus on breaking news, some of their articles have been picked up by mainstream media. Gillian recalls how an article on child sex abuse at a holiday resort in Indonesia gained national attention after it was carried on ABC TV. The mother of the abused child approached them directly. "She felt she could trust the way that we would handle it, in making it a warning to other parents," says Gillian. "But not making it a front- page news story with a photo of the child. Mass media can sometimes do that. "Whenever we do those types of disturbing stories, we are sensitive. It's always in the context of every- thing else we do."