Is there a better case study in environmental dilettantism than the Sydney Morning Herald’s glossy monthly, the(sydney)magazine? In March the Herald got right behind Earth Hour, the environmental equivalent of a fitness fanatic thinking you just need to buy the leotards.
This month, the Herald sensibly changed its Friday racing guide The Form to an “opt-in” for subscribers, presumably acting on information that many people never opened it. But the(sydney)magazine goes to all subscribers, unless of course you live in the wrong postcodes where the thump of the Herald on the front porch is a lot lighter once a month.
The SM, and its sister product the(melbourne)magazine, is printed on hugely refined and expensive paper and owes its existence to upmarket advertisers who just couldn’t bear the idea of designer luggage ads appearing in that awful newsprint. Just over half its content is straight advertising, not counting the advertorials which squeeze the actual reading content to almost homeopathic proportions.
Take this month’s issue. Of five car ads, three are for gas guzzling Mosman/Toorak tractor SUVs (Honda CRV, Land Rover, and Jeep). Of the five alcohol ads, four are for imported brands (Stella Artois, Becks, Frangelico, Skyy). As Jeff Angel from Sydney’s Total Environment Centre points out, these burn lots of energy being transported out here to satisfy the chi chi imported goods fetish.
Two of the compelling profiles this month are of tobacco industry favoured fashionistas Carla Zampatti and Peter Morrissey. In the 1990s, Zampatti was on the board of Rothmans. These days she gets asked tough questions by the SM like “what’s the best dry cleaner in Sydney” (I feel so inadequate, I confess to not knowing that this was something I should be thinking about). We learn that she never goes to clothing sales because she “likes fresh product” and messy sales racks “don’t excite me”. Poor diddums.
We will wait a while before the SM asks her questions like: “Carla, when you were on the Rothmans board for those years, how did your fiduciary duty to the shareholders translate into customer growth and retention?
”How many young people do you believe your efforts might have assisted to take up smoking?”