Celebrating 30 years in print, Pittwater Life is the longest continuously running print publication still operating on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Telum Media spoke with Nigel Wall, Pittwater Life's Publisher, about the magazine and its evolution.
Tell us about Pittwater Life. What does the publication cover, and who does it serve?
Pittwater Life was started by husband-and-wife journalists, Michael and Pam Southern, in August 1991. They focused on local council and state government news (Pittwater Council had broken away from Warringah Council within months of the start-up… hence the name, Pittwater Life) as well as supporting local small businesses who advertised. They also commissioned columns on money, law, gardening, surfing, and more. The print run was a few thousand copies, mostly circulating around Avalon and Palm Beach.
My wife, Lisa Offord, and I bought the title seven years ago. Our background is in journalism and consumer magazines; Lisa has also worked extensively in PR. Pittwater Life remains a free publication. It now circulates 32,000 copies (glossy A4) a month, distributed to 27,000 homes and units from South Narrabeen to Palm Beach and Terrey Hills, with 5,000 copies for collection from shopping centres, medical centres, cafés, and more. The November issue comprises 100 pages. We have our own team of walkers, including local mums, dads, kids, and retirees.
You’ve recently celebrated 30 years in print. How has Pittwater Life evolved over this time?
In the early days, the magazine was black and white newsprint, then one-colour in the mid-1990s, progressing to full-colour in the early 2000s, with gloss paper introduced from 2010. Prior to 2016, the magazine was supported by a basic website that was uploaded with key stories each month. A new website was launched in 2017, including a flipbook / digital version of each issue. Also, we now distribute 1000 copies to major suburbs outside of our catchment, including Dee Why and Manly.
A lot of local newspapers have moved to an online-only model over recent years. Why does print remain a successful medium for Pittwater Life?
Colleagues and friends questioned the wisdom of buying a local print magazine, given print was supposedly "dead". But not at a hyper-local level. Our readers are hungry to know what’s happening in their suburb and surrounds. They are proud of their local print magazine and feel an attachment to it; it has been an integral part of their lives, and it remains an integral part of their community.
We have increased the volume of public interest journalism over the past few years, including more local news and features. We continue to build a team of talented local freelancers to assist in rolling out more content. Everything in the magazine must have a hyper-local relevance. Our cover photo each month is of a local landmark or scene - no people. The production values and aesthetic ensure it is kept at home and displayed by businesses for extended periods. Our work is enjoyable and rewarding; it’s a real buzz to get a positive outcome for a resident or business or charity group. Importantly, local business advertisers continue to embrace the title - many have advertised continuously for more than 20 years.
What kinds of stories are you open to receiving from PRs?
Anything that has the potential to drill down to the hyper-local level. It’s not enough that the product or service might appeal to our readers. Any PR pitch must come with a local connection (not just Northern Beaches but more focussed on Pittwater).
What’s your favourite story you’ve covered during your time at Pittwater Life?
Pittwater has some amazing quiet achievers who have shared their stories with us. They and other, more well-known locals who have opened up to us about their life and connection to the area, include author Michael Robotham, chef and celebrity Miguel Maestre, sailor Iain Murray, artist Bruce Goold, actors Shane Withington and Tom Burlinson, netball icon Anne Sargeant, rocker Paul Christie, radio surf reporter Shane Stedman, journalist Brady Halls, pro golfer Craig Parry, ex-NRL star Mark Gasnier, ex-Wallaby Matt Burke, and the late, great funnyman Jonathan Coleman and punk rock pioneer Damien Lovelock… the list goes on! So many interesting folk - there’s such a deep pool to draw from.
Previous editions of Pittwater Life can be read online
Answers submitted by Nigel Wall, Publisher of Pittwater Life.