A reader commented about the Listener's falling circulation. A while back, I wrote the following for Craccum and posted it on Kete Were as satire; it may well be useful to the Listener's publishers as a marketing proposal.
Following top-level discussions at APN Media, it was today announced that the New Zealand Listener would now be produced in three formats: print, web and gel. Editor Pamela Stirling commented: "our market research shows that readers can find it quite stressful to read about the dangers of botox poisoning, the imminent decline in house values or the worrying trends in garden design. So what better way to relax than with Listener Gel? It rejuvenates the skin, removes unsightly blemishes and calms aching muscles. Best of all, it removes middle-class anxiety in an instant."
Responding to criticism that this new format represents a dumbing down or smoothing out of the long-established literary and political magazine, Stirling commented, "New Zealand Listener readers are not the same demographic as they used to be and our paradigm must achieve synergy with their lifestyle priorities. We like to call our product range New Listener, because we have responded to focus groups just like that nice Mr Blair has done with his New Labour, which of course is not the same as that grumpy old New Labour we once had here."
Warming to her theme, Stirling continued: "our readers enjoy the finer things in life. They are achievers and trend-setters, who want to spend their high disposable incomes on products that make them look good and feel good. They deserve it. They have worked hard and played hard. Now it is time to unwind."
"Since I became Editor," she continued, "we have managed to remove almost all traces of the difficult stuff which used to fill up the old Listener's pages. It really used to be quite hard work reading all that political commentary and those cranky reviews of difficult books that nobody I knew ever bought. I don't think our readers want all those boring, intellectual things cluttering up their aspirational lives. I know our advertisers don't!"
"Still, the Listener is not all about holiday destinations and tasty treats for summer barbecues. Many of our lead articles are very challenging. Some are really quite icky. This could be a problem. The consumers who fit our readership profile like to chill-out after an invigorating pilates session by enjoying a glass of unoaked gewurztraminer and the company of some business friends. We would not like their sparkling conversation to be impaired by the thought that some hair products might cause cancer or that the costs of vein replacement therapy are spiralling out of control. We try to make all our stories about boomers positive and uplifting, but the reality is they still fear their lives are effectively past them and they will die embittered and lonely."
"That's where Listener Gel comes in. Its special compounds, suffused with aloe vera and hand-pressed extra virgin olive oil, simply take away all sense of existential crisis. It removes the worry and makes you feel like a consumer again."
"Best of all, add it to pan-fried snapper on a bed of wilted spinach and it makes a delicious meal for friends and family alike. Listener Gel: it beats thinking every time."