Secrets For Sale
After my high praise of The Virtual Revolution, I was a little less enthused by the Beeb’s latest documentary offering. ‘Secrets For Sale’ took you on a journey through the production of the markets second best real life magazine: Real People. Why they made the point that it was the second best real life magazine, I’m not sure. Part of me thinks that tonight’s Channel 4 docu “My Daughter Grew Another Head and Other True Life Stories” could have gained access to the main competition Take A Break and therefore the Beeb could only produce this second best documentary.
The reasons people will sell their stories to these magazines differ greatly. Whilst there are obviously the moneygrabbers, there are also those who really aren’t in it for the money. There are people who just want to tell their story, not sell it. It’s these people who I feel for. In the programme there was a humanist woman who wanted to tell the story of her husband’s treatment from bowel cancer. The story was read back to her before being sent to press and she approved it, only for the cover headline to be “I’m Daddy’s gift from heaven”. As a humanist she didn’t believe in heaven. This had been made a point of when they talked of her humanist wedding. But it’s all done to shift more copies. If a few people are offended along the way, who is going to care? Well, I do.
At this stage I feel I should point out that this was not a BBC Three documentary. Whilst that may not surprise those of you who didn’t watch it, I found it a bit strange as this programme appears to fit in more with their target audience. It does feel as though it could easily be scheduled alongside ‘Hotter Than My Daughter’ and nobody would blink a false eyelash.
I’m not against real life magazines. I’ll admit that I’ve bought a couple in my lifetime to pass time on train journeys when I couldn’t justify spending more on higher quality publications. They are entertaining. When I interned at NatMags, I read several issues of Real People and spent a bit of time filling in spreadsheets about them and their competitors. These mags must bring in money as they are still being produced and bought by thousands of women weekly. I remember being a bit of a snob when I was asked to write up my views on Reveal (the NatMags celebrity weekly) and I described the audience as “probably not upper class”. I also criticised a story about Prince William using a portaloo as not being content at all. I’m sorry, but I like actual content in my magazines. Not drivel. One of the highlights of my week in Marketing at NatMags was getting to have a meeting with the Cookery Editor of Good Housekeeping. That’s a proper publication in my mind. And that’s probably about the time when the guys at NatMags realised that I was basically a middle aged woman trapped in a teenager’s body. Hey, that sounds like a headline from the programme actually – something about teenager lovers in OAP bodies. Maybe I should try selling my story?!
One story that I did like in the programme was the story of a young boy who’d spent his life in and out of hospital. His parents were doing the story to raise awareness; they were donating all the money to the British Heart Foundation. The magazine knew of this and decided to pay for their wedding, calling upon favours from contacts they had. You see, there can be heartwarming results from these magazines. And seeing the editor and writer all dressed up with headpieces in amongst the couple’s actual friends did make me chuckle.
As a documentary, the programme did it’s job. To be honest, I’m not sure whether my qualm lies with the Beeb at all. I guess it’s the magazines that I find absurd. Puns like ‘Trouble Brewing’ attached to the story of a husband poisoning his wife’s tea with mercury make me want to gag. I know this industry only exists because the market is there, but I’d be much happier to stretch my funds a bit more and get some actual content in Grazia or Look (which I believe to be one up from the real life weeklies).
I’ll be 4OD-ing ‘My Daughter Grew Another Head…” tomorrow as I’m a sucker for a weird documentary. Let’s just see if it convert me to a real life magazine addict. For some reason, I’m doubting that it will.