Empowering Women in Media: Q&A with On the Cover Founder & Editor Melanie Collins
After working for large publications like Cosmopolitan for nearly 18 years, Melanie Collins decided to branch out on her own. With the motivation to encourage other young women in the media field, Collins works to fill the niche of women’s lifestyle writing in Canberra.
Now, she is the founder and editor of her own online publication called On the Cover, a local Canberra website based around fashion, beauty, interiors, and lifestyle.
Creating and growing her own company, along with being a mother of three, has been no effortless feat; however, working to balance career and family life has cemented why a place for women in media is important to Collins.
Empowering women and establishing their role in the media field is an ongoing process — one that Melanie Collins is trying to lead in Australia’s capital.
Q: How did you get started?
I think luck had something to do with it… When I finished school, I did a lot of travelling and eventually ended up in Los Angeles, California. I applied for a job as a personal assistant to the publisher of a small, local publishing company. I was really interested in how the magazine was run, so eventually I pestered my way into an editorial assistant’s role. They offered me an internship, which I eagerly accepted, and I stayed for 4 years. I moved into a junior writer position, then a travel writer. It was luck and enthusiasm.
Q: Why were you drawn to the media industry to begin with?
I love stories, and essentially that’s all journalism is: stories about people, places, events… I like to know the whole story, and all the details, so I think that’s what drew me into journalism: the opportunity to find out lots of different stories from different people in different places.
Q: How was it for you in your entry level positions?
It was hard work! After coming home to Australia, I interned for magazine titles in Sydney, which was a lot of work – mostly boring work. But it’s also essential to getting started in a notoriously competitive industry. Well, it was back then!
The more experience I got, and the more titles I worked across, the more incredibly clever women I met, which definitely reinforced my passion and encouraged me to move into publications written specifically for women.
From a junior position at That’s Life magazine (Google it for a laugh!), I worked my way up through OK! magazine, InStyle, Taste and finally as one of the editors of Cosmopolitan. Working on an international title of that calibre was an incredible experience but the hardest work I’ve ever done.
Q: What made you move away from working with a larger company and start your own publication?
Necessity — unfortunately there aren’t any international publishing houses run out of Canberra!
After moving back to Canberra from Sydney, and doing some freelance and consultancy work here, I saw a real need for a voice that spoke to the young women of Canberra. No one was in conversation with them, about the things that they are into.
So, I decided to give it a shot!
Q: What were the struggles and fulfilment from doing so?
I think the struggles have been mostly of my own making: no one is a bigger critic of myself than myself.
So, getting it off the ground, while juggling family life and my own expectations was my biggest struggle.
Also, being taken seriously in a market where women’s digital lifestyle publications are essentially nonexistent, there weren’t a lot of women willing to give it a go. It’s been incredibly fulfilling seeing my little idea come to fruition and then evolve into something I’m really proud of.
Q: How did family life affect all of this? Did it make working on your own projects more difficult or did you find the freedom you were searching for?
Definitely harder! Planning, interviewing, writing, sourcing, learning about digital magazines versus traditional publishing, keeping focused… all of the above has been more difficult while herding three small children!
But yes, the freedom has been incredibly beneficial to my family and one of the driving factors to make the site succeed.
Q: What were your goals for On the Cover when you started? Are they different now?
I think my goals are the same now as they were when I first launched: to create something aesthetically beautiful that appeals to a young demographic of clever Canberra women, while keeping true to an expert-driven narrative.
Q: Why was empowering young women a primary point? Why focus on women-centric topics in the first place?
I’m raising a young woman-in-the-making so paving a path to her future interests is really important to me. I’ve focused on topics that are of interest to women because there is more than enough focus on the interests of men.
To me, there’s no reason why what’s seen as traditionally women’s topics — health, lifestyle, parenting, style — can’t be featured as equally as anything else in the mainstream media.
Q: Any advice for young women getting into this field? What is something you wish you could’ve told your younger self?
Be brave and confident in pursuing whatever it is you want: be as driven and ambitious as you want to be. Be enthusiastic, try your hardest at every task: during my interning days at Pacific Magazines in Sydney, I was once tasked with unpeeling an orange for my editor’s lunch. And I did it with enthusiasm! This is a true story. I would tell my younger self to trust my intuition and to know that hard work always pays off.