KING, NENE (1943– )
Nene King was the most influential women’s magazine editor of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. After a short stint as a writer on both the Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day, she became New Idea’s chief reporter in 1979 and then its deputy editor in 1982, at a time when the Southdown Press weekly was being edited by the redoubtable Dulcie Boling. Far ahead of Woman’s Day in weekly sales, it was challenging the Weekly’s leadership position.
However, in 1986 simmering bad blood between Boling and King came to a head and King dramatically resigned from her post, insulted that her desire to be editor of TV Week (also under Boling’s command) had not been taken seriously. Moving to Sydney, King became deputy editor of Woman’s Day in mid-1987 and then, after the magazine was acquired by Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) along with the rest of Fairfax Magazines, she was appointed editor in January 1988.
At the time of her ascension, Woman’s Day was selling fewer than 700,000 copies per week and New Idea was selling in excess of 950,000. This gap began to narrow under King’s dynamic leadership. Over time, she recruited a significant number of her former New Idea colleagues and, like her, they flourished in the riotously freewheeling collegial atmosphere she created, which contrasted markedly with the sedate culture at Southdown Press. Fearlessly buying top stories for top dollars and supporting her magazine with an innovative television advertising campaign, she achieved supremacy in 1992, when Woman’s Day was selling over a million copies per week. At its zenith, it sold more than 1.1 million copies. The mini-series Paper Giants: Magazine Wars (2013) focused on the contest between King and Boling to make their publication the number one seller in Australia.
Ad News’ Media Executive of the Year in 1991, King became editor-in-chief of both Woman’s Day and the Australian Women’s Weekly the following year. In time, she also became a director of the ownership company, Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. These were the golden years of magazine publishing, for Nene King and for the Australian industry itself. It was a time when new magazines were being launched with flair and when inspired editors like her could excite the reading public’s imagination. But the launch in the 1990s of four major weekly titles—That’s Life! and Take Five, and Who Weekly and New Weekly (both later renamed)—together with a new wave of well-targeted monthly women’s magazines would in time make million-copy circulations a thing of the past.
Nene King resigned from ACP and left the magazine industry in March 1999.
REFs: P. FitzSimons, Nene (2002); personal knowledge.