At the core of Good Weekend is its features: definitive stories on the people, places and issues that matter - to you, to Australia, to the world. The Good Weekend’s editor, Katrina Strickland talks about the power of print and shaping the stories everyone is talking about on Saturdays.
In the 2020 film News of the World, Tom Hanks played an 1870s character who travelled through remote towns of America charging people a nickel to hear him read from a newspaper. In this social media-driven world, in which we’re all often alone with our phones, Hanks’ character feels like an artefact of a long-forgotten past.
Yet you need not look too far below the surface to realise that the human spirit’s craving for shared experiences is alive and well. Good Weekend editor Katrina Strickland was reminded of this during the pandemic, when Instagram and the Good Weekend inbox would light up week in, week out with photos of people doing The Quiz together over Zoom - family groupings, friendship circles, work colleagues.
“It was incredibly heartwarming, a sign of the power of a group activity to make us feel better about ourselves and the world,” said Strickland, who has been editor since mid-2017 of the magazine that’s inserted every Saturday into The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
So popular is The Quiz that two devotees set up their own Instagram account in its honour. Now run by Good Weekend, it has more than 43,000 followers. The magazine has further extended the brand by instigating live quiz nights as part of Good Food Month.
Strickland learnt about the incredible reach of Good Weekend’s games the hard way, having decided when she took over to kill off the Get It puzzle that accompanies The Quiz every Saturday. The reader backlash was such that she quickly brought it back.
“Get It writer Greg Bakes was very gracious about it. He just laughed and said, ‘Someone else tried to cut it once and got the same reaction,’” Strickland said. “A magazine with the history and broad audience of Good Weekend - 37 years and more than 800,000 readers - is one in which that audience has very firm opinions of what they like and don’t like. And they’re never afraid to tell you.”
Reader favourites include Two of Us, Danny Katz’s Modern Guru and Benjamin Law’s Dicey Topics, but the heart and soul of the magazine is its features, penned by experts in the craft of longform writing such as Jane Cadzow, Amanda Hooton, Tim Elliott, Melissa Fyfe and Konrad Marshall.
Stories on subjects as diverse as celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo, cancel culture, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, the Dark Emu debate, Sydney fraudster Melissa Caddick and Melbourne court clerk Ashleigh Petrie rate incredibly well online, attracting strong engagement on social media too.
We're looking for the issues and people Australians are fascinated by
“What’s interesting to me is that in a time of bite-sized news and supposedly short attention spans, it’s these stories of 4000, 5000 words that perform the best - with those who’ve grown up with us but also with 20 and 30 somethings, who might come for The Quiz but then stay for the features,” said Strickland. “That tells me that we’re all actually craving substance, a definitive story on a subject that allows us to grapple with it in all its shades of grey and nuance.”
That’s particularly so, she said, in an age of spin. “We’re all very marketing savvy these days, and we increasingly want the unvarnished truth. The rise of the real on Instagram - stars like Celeste Barber and The Inspired Unemployed - reflects that, too. News magazines have always played in that space, and I think, ironically, the times are coming back to suit that aspect of what we do. People are fed up with nicey-nicey content that actually doesn’t say much.”
Strickland says her team’s aim is to publish the cover story everyone is talking about on a Saturday - at the kids footy game that morning or at a dinner party that night. “We’re looking for the issues and people Australians are fascinated by, and to catch them just before everyone else registers that they’re interested in them.”
Expansion of the 52 Properties and the Style Edit
At the other end of the spectrum, Good Weekend has in recent years extended its 31-year old 52 Weekends Away annual issue into two other 52 properties, 52 Dream Destinations and 52 Top Wineries. Where 52 Weekends Away is about national travel - Strickland expanded it a few years ago from covering mostly NSW and Victoria getaways to include every state and territory - 52 Dream Destinations is international. 52 Top Wineries, meanwhile, is a co-production with Huon Hooke’s wine website The Real Review.
These special annual issues have proven popular with state tourism bodies and automotive advertisers, who have done gatefolds, reversebacks, mini-magazines and false covers to capitalise on the fact that these issues tend to sit on coffee tables and in magazine racks for longer.
Another innovation has been Style Edit, a quarterly issue started last year that includes more lifestyle, fashion and design content, “but done in that Good Weekend way - with intelligence and rigour and, as always, beautiful writing”.
And so while Tom Hanks’ character in News of the World may seem quaint, our shared passion for exploring what’s happening around us and why - and more than ever, for getting the real story - is very much a 21st century thing.
Check out how NRMA unlocked the power of Good Weekend in our latest Rethink Ink creative showcase