Your 20th birthday is a special event worthy of a big celebration and at Queensland Fishing Monthly we are absolutely stoked to be celebrating 20 years of bringing you the best read that is totally dedicated to fishing in Queensland available.
It just seems like yesterday that I joined Fishing Monthly, but I’ve now been with the company for six years and editing QFM for just over four years. But this is not a story about me, this is a story about the people who started the magazine, those who influenced where we currently are and a celebration of their hard work and dedication to our readers.
I’ve had an absolute ball the last few weeks talking to the founder of Fishing Monthly, Mike Airey, the first editor Rod Harrison and subsequent stalwarts of the company and eventual part owners Jim Bren, Steve Morgan, Robyn Lawrie and Matt Drinkall. Every one of these people have played such big roles in getting Fishing Monthly to where it is today that they all deserve special mention right form the start.
I sat down with Mike Airey first of all to have a chat about why he even started South Queensland Fishing Monthly.
“I guess I was looking for the next challenge,” said Mike. “I’d had a pretty successful run with New Zealand Fishing News and I really liked the south eastern corner of Queensland. Of course there was not a dedicated magazine for anglers and boaters in Queensland way back in 1987, so I figured I’d give it a go”.
And so the magazine idea was formed with Mike now on the hunt for some connections and an editor who would help establish the magazine and get it off on the right foot.
Mike’s first step was to contact Rod Harrison. He’d been lucky enough to meet Rod in New Zealand a few years prior and Rod had indicated he’d be willing to help establish something just for Queenslanders. After a few business dinners, Rod was welcomed to the tiny business and became the first employee of Fishing Monthly.
“Rod was a godsend,” said Mike.
“Without his support in that first year we never would have gotten off the ground. I can’t really express just how important Rod was in those initial days. He knew everyone in the industry and had all the contacts to ensure we had an amazing first up list of writers,” said Mike.
And that list of writers included some of the best in the business at the time and we are still lucky enough to have some of those writers still with us today. It shows that the company has always tried to do the right thing by its writers. Having long-term relationships in an industry that is renown for swapping and changing shows the loyalty these writers have to fishing and providing readers with good copy. It clearly shows they are in it not for themselves, but for the readers and that’s just the attitude we want at Fishing Monthly.
[INSERT FIRST ISSUE WRITERS FACT BOX HERE]
Of special note amongst the list of first issue writers are those who continue to support us with copy (and I have to say I’d be lost without a few of them). There’s David Green who is still penning the Gold Coast area report; Wayne Kampe who is our current boating, camping and 4WD field editor; Gary Howard who has been a boating institution since the start; and of course our northern maestro Dave Donald, who has made sure the Qantas link flights to Weipa, Bamaga and Seisia have always been full with keen anglers.
And so it was that Volume 1, Number 1, Nov 87 of South Queensland Fishing Monthly hit the stands with Rod Harrison at the helm.
These days I read lots of magazines, but it’s always the editorial I read first. I don’t know why that is, I just do, so I read Rod Harrison’s editorial in the first issue. It reads exactly the way you would expect and the title will be hard for me to beat, ever!
Rod’s editorial was titled First And Last Editorial and he goes on to say that “The policy at South Queensland Fishing Monthly is that it’s your voice. You tell us what you feel on the many issues that confront you as a fisherman. And we’ll air those views. There are no great literary standards involved, just the simple talk that fishermen understand.”
And this is as true today as it was way back then at the first issue and just shows how in-tune Rod Harrison was with readers and common anglers when he was at the peak of his long career with the fishing media.
So the first issue hit the stand, but how did it sell?
“Surprisingly well, although I can’t for the life of me remember how many copies we sold,” said Mike.
“It was a big relief just to get it out on the stands and we hand delivered most of the copies as we didn’t have a distributor.
“It was hard, but very satisfying work to see it make into angler’s hands,” said Mike.
The first issue actually sold around 1700 copies, not bad for a first off in an untried marketplace.
Rod edited the magazine for five issues before heading off to do some serious fishing and filming and Mike took over the editorial reigns.
“I took over reluctantly from Rod, but I knew I would struggle, even with the fantastic base of writers Rod had sourced for us.
“I spoke to a good friend of mine, Jim Bren, who was looking for a change of career and luckily he accepted my offer. Jim came on board just before the second year anniversary and we became a two-man band until I had to go back overseas for a few years. This is when Jim really stepped up and took over almost every daily operation of the company – from selling ads to getting editorial copy and sub-editing it all. As much as Rod did a sensational job to get the project off the ground, without Jim we would have been bankrupt and out of business within three years,” said Mike.
As with any business, it’s the obstacles you face head on and overcome that make you successful and in the early days there were many obstacles that could have potentially put a stop to South Queensland Fishing Monthly.
“I remember the drama we had with income and setting up for print as being the hardest problems to solve,” said Mike.
“In the early days getting support from advertisers was difficult but we needed that support to make sure we could pay the printers. Luckily we made a product that was successful and the advertising results picked up, so that problem solved itself.
“Printing in the early days was a lot different from what it is like now. We had to literally travel an hour each way in production periods to make sure the magazine was laid up properly by the typesetters at the print house. The typesetters actually cut and paste everything onto a template and that then went onto the press. You had to be a skilled tradesman to be a typesetter and it took a lot of time. Whenever there was a page change or alteration to be made, we couldn’t just email the printer, we had to go over there and change it ourselves!” said Mike.
Jim Bren agrees with Mike about the obstacles and only now, 15 years after the ‘good old days’, can Jim have a bit of a giggle about just how hard it was at times.
“I’ve got to say that when I stepped into the business we had a few issues that needed sorting out. The first was revenue, which sorted itself out luckily. The second was gathering interesting information for the readers. Rod Harrison’s efforts early on helped solve that problem for us. The third issue was getting circulation up. This one proved a tough ask initially, but we came up with a fantastic competition for a boat package that ran over three issues and our readership jumped almost 2000 in those three months. It was a great promotion and we held onto all of those new readers. It rates as the thing I am most proud of in regards to Fishing Monthly,” said Jim.
But the big issue was sorting out the pre-press production. The time constraints in those early days meant there was no time to develop the magazine, chase up new writers and expand the areas covered. This all changed when Matt Drinkall and Brent Airey joined the Fishing Monthly team. Matt, who still works on QFM and part owns the business, was keen for a sea change from an existing design position, made the move to Brisbane and put hours and hours of work in with Brent and other print industry professionals into what was, at that time, the forefront of desktop publishing. Fishing Monthly now had the ability to design, layout, and control all aspects of the transition between copy and print.
“This saved hours and hours of work time,” said Mike.
“Without those two boys putting in the hard yards and getting to know the programs we never would have had time to make a better magazine,” said Jim.
Now that Jim had time on his hands, well more time than he did have anyway, he set about working on the magazine and employing staff to help.
“We employed John Softly to help with advertising and after a few years he stepped up to help out with editorial. John was a great help and we grew a lot while he was with us,” said Jim.
“But always in the background was a young fella with plenty of talent as a writer. Steve Morgan started writing for QFM as our Junior Writer in the first year and by 1995 he’d joined the team as Assistant Editor. I couldn’t deny his passion for the work and I eventually stepped aside to let Steve take over the editorship. That was in September of 1995 and he guided the magazine in new and exciting directions that helped the industry grow, not just the magazine.
“And that is an important distinction to make. We have always tried to grow the industry because the more people who fish the better, and none were better at that than Steve,” said Jim.
“Another big turning point, apart from Matty and Steve joining the team, was when Robyn Lawrie arrived,” said Jim.
“Robyn was a real go getter and kept everyone on their toes, something she still does today as a part owner and director of the company,” finished Jim.
I was lucky with my history at the company because Steve and I had worked closely together while I was at Freshwater Fishing Magazine (FWF just turned 20 also). I’d just blown my knee apart playing footy and I was looking for a change. Steve suggested I come up and work for his company in 2001, so I did and helped out with the fledgling ABT circuit. Two years later Steve asked if I wanted to edit QFM and I jumped at the chance. That was in March of 2003 and it’s been a great ride since.
With 20 years of producing magazines there are sure to be some fantastic memories, so I thought I’d ask the five people who know the company best what their favourite memory is of Fishing Monthly.
Mike Airey simply said the people he has worked with and met.
“I really enjoy the one-on-one meetings and the social gatherings in the fishing industry. The advertisers, the people I have worked with and the readers are all first rate and that is my favourite memory – the people,” said Mike.
Jim Bren reiterated his joy when the boat promotion came off and he was able to introduce another 2000 anglers to the magazine. “It really was a buzz to have such a successful campaign. And then to retain those readers forever was just fantastic. I’m really proud of that achievement,” said Jim.
Steve Morgan has a few highlights and since he’s been with the company as long as anyone, he’s probably entitles to a few happy memories.
“I suppose the first great memory was actually getting offered the opportunity to buy the magazines. I said yes without even thinking about it or the implications…or how we'd pay for it,” said Steve.
But once we took over and the mag kept growing it was great to see QFM selling more than a lot of the national fishing magazines. It shows us just how important the magnificent support we get from our readers is and is a pretty good sign that something's being done right and we’re on the right track,” enthused Steve.
And Steve’s final comment about what has kept him so excited about Fishing Monthly rings true with the spark that Jim Bren saw in him many years ago.
“Being able to use the FMG magazines as a platform to help grow the industry has been exciting. Someone way better at business then me said, ‘don't fight over the sand, just build a bigger sand-pit,” Steve finished, and that pretty much sums up how we all go about making the magazines every month.
Matt Drinkall just loves it. I see the hours he puts in every month to make sure the mag meets deadline and it’s clear how much he enjoys the work.
“The whole 13 and a half years I’ve been here has been my best memory,” said Matt.
“Sure we put in the big hours in the initial few years, but boy it has really paid off! The result is a fantastic magazine that I'm really proud to produce. I have loved building relationships with all our staff and seeing them develop with the magazines. It still amazes me at the end of the month the amount of effort put in by everyone involved in getting the magazine to print. In the last few years I have enjoyed getting out of the production cell and becoming more involved with clients, distributors and the public in general. I am looking forward to the future of QFM and Fishing Monthly Group and it looks very exciting,” said Matt.
Robyn Lawrie needs little introduction to those who have subscribed at any of he shows we attend. Robyn is always in there saying ‘G’day’ and extolling the virtues of the latest subscription offer. I’ve seen Robyn at work on the stand and it’s pretty impressive to watch. She just loves the interaction with our readers, and she admits as much when asked about the best memories of working at and now part owning Fishing Monthly Group.
“I just love the shows. It’s a great chance to meet some of our subscribers and gauge how we are going,” said Robyn.
“I’ve met some amazing people and made some great friends from working the shows and I really value our regular subscribers’ input. For example, we have one subscriber who is always first in the door at any show, and even though he is about five years ahead in subscriptions, always re-subscribes. This has been going on for years and we now take him out for a quick coffee at the start of any show – just so we can have a good chat and a catch up,” said Robyn.
With great memories like that I can barely wait to see what’s around the corner and which memories I’ll be talking about in the next few years.
From such humble beginnings Fishing Monthly Group has grown from a one-man band into a dedicated publishing house that employs 27 people and has close associations with several other companies, including ABT (Australian Bass, Barra and Bream Tournaments) and AFC (Australian Fishing Championships). The growth has seen Fishing Monthly Group move from a backyard operation into a very busy and efficient workplace that now takes up 900 square metres of office space at Hamilton.
So what’s next for Fishing Monthly?
In the near future it will be bigger and better. We are still tracking down new writers for features and area reports and trying to bring you more and more information on fishing in Queensland. My greatest thrill is helping new writers get published and see them blossom into great writers who are respected in the fishing industry and heavily read by our readers. And almost anyone with the desire can be published in QFM.
We’ll be doing bigger area features with everything you need to know about an area, we’ll be looking at the latest and greatest in the tackle trade and we’ll also be bringing you up to speed on the latest fishing techniques. As we try to be the voice of recreational fishing and boating, I will continue to push for angler’s rights of access and the betterment of fishing in general. It’s a wonderful pastime that is slowly being eroded away by armchair conservationists.
We will always listen to our customers and if there is an article or an idea we can pursue on your behalf, we are always happy to listen to it. Fishing Monthly's basic brief is to give the information to make everything easily repeatable. The reader should be able to have a go at anything the writers are doing. No 'secret creek' articles are published and this gives readers a great chance to do it themselves. There is nothing better than being asked for information on a particular topic or location and being able to deliver an answer – it’s a big thrill.
Lastly, thanks for your support over the last 20 years. It is only with your continued support that Queensland Fishing Monthly has been able to grow and will continue to grow. The readers are the magazine and the magazine is for the readers.
Issue 1 Writers
|David Green||Runaway Bay|
|John Doohan||West Chermside|
|Mark Beighton||Bribie Island|
|Jim Sullivan||Hervey Bay|
FACY BOX 2
|November 1987 – April 1988||Rod Harrison|
|May 1988 – July 1989||Mike Airey|
|July 1989 – August 1995||Jim Bren|
|September 1995 – February 2003||Steve Morgan|
|March 2003 – Present||Stephen Booth|
November 1987 Volume 1, Issue 1 released, 24 pages
March 1990 title changed to Queensland Fishing Monthly, 28 pages
August 1992 first gloss cover, 36 pages
August 1993 from cut-and-paste to digital pre-press,
January 1994 first time over 50 pages – 56 pages
November 2002 first time over 100 pages, biggest issue ever, 164 pages
November 2007 first time full colour