It’s 2019 and Guardian Life’s new direction seems to be chasing coins not clout

Guardian Life

Guess who was on Guardian Life’s last weekend?

Funa Maduka, the woman responsible for getting Genevieve Nnaji’s December hit Lionheart on Netflix through her position as the Director of International Original Films at Netflix.

Funa Maduka is easily the youngest person that has been on the Guardian Life cover in the last 5 months, and the most ‘organic’ (using that word very loosely).

She is a young Nigerian whose position has an outsize impact on the future of Nollywood, and on some level her interview helps highlight that.

Every other person who has been on the Guardian Life cover since April has either hand a thing to promote (Alex Iwobi promoting the Super Eagles during their AFCON run) or trying reassert themselves into popular culture (Sade Okoya reminding all of us that 20 years since later, she is still as much of a socialite as she is a billionaire).

The common thread in these covers is that they have laser focused on the week’s subject, their personal challenges and triumphs, and been largely flattering to them, without any of the commentary about their place in the larger world in which they occupy.

The very same commentary that made Guardian Life an important arbiter of conversations in the first place.

We should have figured out things were going to change the moment Chidera Muoka announced she was leaving her position as editor-in-chief at Guardian Life to focus on her career as a content creator.

She was still staying on as a creative consultant.

The job of editor while not formally filled, fell to the next person on the hierarchy, Njideka Agbo formerly the magazine’s online content lead.

Muoka has an unprecedented run at Guardian Life (the two editors before her barely lasted a year each before they were replaced), moving her team through two management tenures before finally settling on her own style. Muoka really made her mark in 2018, becoming the first Lifestyle editor to highlight LGBT issues on a mainstream newspaper cover.

Her work also tackled social issues like the dignity of labour featuring female public transportation service providers, the #MeToo movement in Nigeria. Her covers achieved talkability among youth demographics and really set it apart as the lifestyle magazine to emulate.

However, if there is anything ThisDay Style, the progenitor of the lifestyle pullout magazine can teach us, it is that there are three ways for a pullout to stay profitable; go offline, increase subscriptions through challenging content that excites a certain paying audience, or go fully commercial.

Thisday Style does a mix of these; the Arise Fashion Week, its flagship event ensures it remains top of mind every year, and its covers ensures it remains funded.

From all indications, Guardian Life’s radical pivot from its social justice angle to covering lifestyle stories suggests it is either going for broke with celebrity co-signs or the new editor, Njideka Agbo is trying to find her footing as an editor.

 

 

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Film is another way to explore this – I can sit in a theatre or in my home, and be completely transported to another’s world view. How does a filmmaker from a particular culture observe and interpret love? fear? laughter? pain? Films I watch from the around the world give me a window into answering these questions and make me a better global citizen.” – Funa Maduka Pick up a copy of today’s issue of The Guardian Life Magazine, the entertainment and lifestyle supplement of The @GuardianNigeria Newspapers as @thefunamentals, Director of International Original Films for the online streaming giant, @Netflix talks about a range of issues Creative Team: Creative Direction: @Ingydeca Styling: @ebuka.didit Designer: @denikeonline Photography: @Idrisdawodu Hair: @Tonysbeautyace Makeup: @beautybyvellah Shoot Assistant: @thatboyakinwale . . . #FunaMaduka #Netflix #film #Nollywood #Oscars #Movies #Africa #AfricanFilms

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Agbo is about 4 months into her tenure as editor so its too early to pronounce pronounce judgment. But it is just enough time to do an early assessment of her impact.

I am not excited by the new Guardian Life’s direction or its covers, And the responses to its covers, as illustrated above suggests I am not alone in this early indifference.

I can’t help but wonder where else young people interested in social issues will have to go to see their concerns and challenges validated by a mainstream platform.

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