The Australian Boating Magazine Difference

Peter Webster - Editor

Australian Boat Mags Editor Peter Webster is one of Australia’s most experienced photo-journalists, who has specialised in marine journalism and publishing for more than 50 years. During that period he’s tested well over 1,600 (“I lost count years ago!”) powerboats, yachts and trailer boats. He’s personally owned about 40 boats, and especially loved about 10 of them.

A frequent consultant to the Boating Industry, he’s renowned for his support of Australian boat building and his ‘telling it like it is’ style of journalism. He was the founding Editor of Australian Boating magazine in 1973, and continued in that position until it closed down in the 1989 recession “we had to have” before re-starting again in 1990.

In the intervening years, he founded the Australian Boating magazine group and created many well-known marine titles including:

When the AB publishing group closed down in 1989 following the ‘recession we had to have’, Ruth Cunningham purchased the Trailerboat Fisherman (TBF) masthead, and started working with Peter and other members of the Webster family. They quickly re-established TBF, which they ran together until early 1993. During this time, TBF quickly grew to become the biggest selling boating magazine in Australia.

However, a decision to take on another shareholder (to consolidate and re-grow the publishing business with Australian Boating targeting moored craft as well), proved disastrous.

In 1993, serious issues over the management and direction of the wider publishing business erupted, and unable to work with the major shareholder, Peter and Ruth both quit the business.

This resulted in them being forced to start all over again, with nothing behind them except a very grim determination to get back up with a brand new monthly magazine, asap. Their new business, Sea Media Pty Ltd, began in late 1993, initially making brochures and doing extensive marine photography. The first issue of their new title, Australian Fisherman & Boatowner (“F&B” as it became known) was published in April, 1994, and shortly after, Australian Boating was re-booted, and the pair of magazines settled down again, and continued successfully until the advent of the GFC in 2008-9.

According to Peter “This how the boating industry rolls in Australia – in seven year cycles, with closely associated periods of ‘boom  and bust’ for specific sections of the industry. Thinking here of the extraordinary sales of trailer yachts in the of 1970s, followed by the amazing growth of keel yachting in the 1980s . . . alongside the 1990s ‘boom’ in outboard powered GRP and aluminium trailer boats. Then sailboards went ‘poof’ in the early 2000s after a spectacular debut and huge sales for 2-3 seasons . . . and after the GFC nightmare, the local manufacturers started building bigger – and bigger – cruisers, as yacht production started spiraling down . . . Through it all, we produced a raft of outstanding, specialist, printed magazines . . until the GFC killed off the industry’s floor plan finance, banks became scared of boats . . and the internet inspired the creation of ‘social media’.

Boat marketing subsequently changed forever, as did the way magazines had been produced through the late 1980-90s before the ascension of the internet, in the early part of the new century. Printed boating mags became expensive to produce and difficult to distribute, and in the early 2000s, started shifting over to online productions around the world.

We started as an online production in 2010, but quickly upgraded to a digital (PDF) platform in 2012, as we had so many readers who lived, worked – and played – in areas where internet coverage was very poor, or non-existent. It was an immediate success, as once the magazine was downloaded onto the reader’s iPad, mobile phone, or e-reader, it could be read anywhere, anytime – even if you were onboard a Qantas jumbo on the other side of the planet – or anchored snugly behind that island in the Whitsundays.

This is what we now call “magavision” and it is still a developing, maturing media concept that is literally the best of two worlds – print and video. This is where the journalist links the ‘printed’ word (the hard facts and data, basically) with comprehensive video coverage (the beautiful or exciting imagery of the video) in the same production: a PDF magazine delivered through the internet, with “magavision” embedded in the pages of a magazine the readers can keep forever.

“There’s no question today’s multi-media Australian Boating magavision production is the way forward in the specialised world of marine media.”

Mary Webster - Publisher and Subscriptions Manager

Mary and Peter are a life-long couple with four ‘children’ (“who are long gone off our hands, and doing their own thing”) and grandparents to nine, aged 23 down to 4 yrs old.  

This popular boating couple have spent decades boating, fishing and sailing on waterways all round Australia, and are as passionate about boating and fishing as ever. And especially stimulated by the new multi-media challenges – and potential – of taking their considerable marine editorial knowledge to a new place, combining traditional ‘print’ editorial skills with the new ‘on-line’ delivery mediums for AB’s core subscriber ‘family’.

A key feature of their commercial longevity and success is the fact that both Peter and Mary are ‘real’, hands-on sort of people, happily prepared to chat or meet with any of their subscribers, many of whom have become close friends over the years.

Whilst Peter looks after the editorial and production matters, Mary’s main mission (apart from using her professional proof reading skills in all our publications) is to look after each one of “her” subscribers on a very personal, caring basis that has resulted in so many people learning how to enjoy the online digital (PDF) magazine experience – even if most of the core AB/TBF/F&B ex-print subscribers had no idea in the beginning, of how easily they could make the switch from a printed magazine to the iPads, tablets, laptops and PCs we use today.

Mary’s calm, patient explanations and re-assurance (“If you still get stuck, ring me – we’re going to get you through this!”) has helped hundreds of readers embrace the online delivery, and really enjoy the PDF, on-screen reading structure of today’s multi-media (and multi-faceted) structure of Australian Boating magazine.

Together, Peter & Mary make a personable, and highly experienced team, working in the complex, cyclic world of Australian boating, and dedicated to their family of subscribers throughout Australia, and increasingly, in neighboring countries in the Asia Pacific region.