Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Transform in...wait for it...Take a Break magazine!

With the Guardian, lets face it, you're often preaching to the converted. It felt like it was time to try and broaden our horizons, and take the the drug law reform debate to a wider audience. And where better to start than Britain's number one selling women's weekly: Take a Break.

For non Take a Break regulars, here's some info from their website to put you in the picture:

Captivating real life stories, prize puzzles and competitions and classic weekly elements, combine to give readers an interactive and involving big value package.

Take a Break has comfortably been the biggest selling women's weekly in the UK for over 14 years. One in eight women in the UK read Take a Break every week and it sells 2 copies every second, making it the 4th largest women's weekly in the world. Take a Break also publishes a number of brand extensions totalling over 22 million copies per year

Take a Break's mix of real life, fashion, beauty, food, home, travel and competitions attracts a hugely varied readership. Readers can be anything from 18 to 80; they are likely to own their own home and to be married, and many have children. Its universal appeal is confirmed by the strength of its reader relationship. It is read exceptionally thoroughly, has very strong reader loyalty and is read for longer than any of its competitors.

Circulation 1,018,423
Adult Readership 3,138,000
Female Readership 2,734,000
Median Age 44
Target Market C1C2 women aged 25-55 with children
Frequency Weekly
Launch date March 1990
Price 78p
On sale every Thursday

Take a Break, and other similar women's weekly titles (of which there are several), are more used to running 'my drugs hell' type stories, so it was quite a bold move on their part, unprecedented in fact, to run a straight policy feature on the critics of prohibition and advocates of moves towards legalisation/regulation. Read the full article here (pdf). A pretty good scoop for us as far as it goes; that's 3 million readers remember.

We worked hard with them on this, and they've done a great job in including key points we were keen to highlight:
  • that prohibition creates crime, harming and endangering young people rather than protecting them
  • that prohibition merely exacerbates the social problems of deprived and socially marginalised communities and is an active obstacle to addressing such problems in the longer term
  • that the 'war on drugs' has dramatically failed as a policy but has effectively handed control of dangerous drug markets to gangsters
  • that a pragmatic pro law-reform position is compatible with being 'anti-drugs',
  • and that 'legalisation' (not a useful term in many contexts) is described in terms of a range of regulatory options for different drugs (rather than an unregulated free for all)
There was other stuff that would have been good to see in there, perhaps notably some sort of economic analysis about how prohibition is so quite so effective at creating crime and mayhem, but you cant have everything and all in all its a concise and useful piece that will no doubt raise a few eyebrows in dentists' waiting rooms across the country over the next week or so. There's an online debate too which could be interesting.

But before we get too excited that it heralds a long term shift in editorial position its worth noting that below the article is a red box reading:
'MY MUMS ON DRUGS' have you a parent - or other relative- who does drugs? Do you have a picture of them doing it? Send us your story and photos. Fee paid.


BernieR said...

That is genius, great work! I think you should look for other unlikely outlets for Transform's message.

I think the most effective piece of "propaganda" I have ever done was a discussion I started on David Cameron's WebCameron website, criticising a misguided drugs policy review led by Iain Duncan Smith. The discussion was read by 50,000 people before Cameron closed the whole site down!

Steve R said...

excellent. suggestions always welcome...I think some of the least likely audiences are often the most ready to change their views.

A dogmatic prohibitionist position is is intellectually very fragile - the main problem being that most people have never been exposed to a rational critique or credible alternative. But we must take care to engage with audiences sensitively and diplomatically, remembering that they are all well intentioned and share the reform goals of reducing the harms drugs cause to society.