Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Michelle Hespe, Publisher and Marketing Manager of AuzBiz and TrulyAus
Michelle Hespe has been the Publisher and Marketing Manager of Auzbiz and TrulyAus since 2017. She has an extensive career working as a travel writer, foreign correspondent, editor in chief and journalist all over the globe.
Medianet sat down with Michelle to discuss her career and the launch of AuzBiz’s new magazine.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the media industry?
I was one of those kids wanting to be the next Jana Wendt or Liz Hayes while growing
up, and I only ever had one dream career – of being a journalist and an author one day as
well. I have always been a complete bookworm and worked in many bookstores while
studying. I left Australia at 19, determined to get some experience to be a travel writer, and then came back and found a role that would get me more publishing experience in-house.
In Sydney, my first gig was Assistant and then Deputy Editor of Outrage Magazine when I
was 22, and I also headed to Hong Kong and started travel writing. I was also working for
The Street Press (book reviews and the arts), and then I moved to Cambodia to work as a
news reporter for the Cambodia Daily, then on to Prague to work as an arts and travel
writer for The Prague Post. I came back in my late 20s to work in B2B publishing with The
Intermedia Group (for its retail division) and threw myself into design writing.
You have had an incredible career so far, can you explain a little more about your role at Ausbiz what led you into this position?
When I was 30, I took on a role as the Editor for OUTthere, with Edge Agency, and worked
on building up its inflight division (OUTthere was the inflight mags for Rex, Airnorth,
Skywest, Cobham, Skytrans and Alliance). I was also Editor in Chief of the teams on Austar
(later to be Foxtel) and Best Western’s magazine En Route.
I worked a lot on new ideas for tenders, for print, digital publications and the beginning of
the social media boom. I then moved on to be the launch editor of National Geographic Traveller in Aus and NZ, which has long been a dream of mine. I was working with the team across the world and met everyone in Washington. It was an amazing two years travelling the world and working for some of the best in the industry.
My heart was still in inflight magazines and in particular, working with Rex, so I approached
the CEO and Board about doing their magazine. I won the tender, renamed OUTthere, True
Blue, and launched my company. We then also became the publishers of Tigertales, Alliance
and Airnorth’s inflight magazines.
Myself and three others created AusBiz and TrulyAus in 2017 and went on to build up both online and across socials and newsletters. The idea being that we would have two strong arms of the business – TrulyAus covering Aussie travel destinations, Australian people and products (and more recently, Truly Aussie Dogs) and AusBiz covering Australian businesses, industries and Aussie leaders. True Blue became TrulyAus in 2023, to match the website. Now we have launched AusBiz magazine to match that website.
You have worked across a number of mediums across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia, how does the media industry, and your role within it differ across different locations and platforms?
It’s been a wild 25 years in publishing. In Cambodia, I was working for a local newspaper (on-the-ground reporting – visiting villages and cities etc for interviews) and then
working online for Kyodo News (a news wire service but based in Sydney).
In Europe, it was back to newspapers and some online, but back in Australia in my 30s was
when everything started to merge with digital, and working across titles such as Foxtel was
a real eye-opener, as everyone switched from print to online.
I’ve been lucky enough to be on the cusp of print and digital and so have learnt as I go –
mostly from those who were successful before me and willing to help and mentor me
(thanks Eddie Thomas and Craig Hodges), and from the younger interns and assistants who
come in and continually challenge and inspire me. But really, my main passion has stayed
the same – travel and business writing/publishing.
Is there a particular story or piece of work you have been involved in that you are most proud of?
I was super proud to launch National Geographic Traveller in Australia and NZ as the editor.. I’ve met polar bears in the Arctic, travelled through the Atacama Desert, and done some extraordinary things as a travel writer in general. And winning the tender to create Rex’s new inflight magazine True Blue, was definitely the pinnacle of my career. I always knew it was where I was meant to be, and have now worked with the team at Rex for many years.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about working in the media
industry, what would it be?
Don’t give all of your ideas to others. Keep some of your best ones to yourself and even if it
is just you, you can still bring them to life.
What are your pitching preferences and how do you prefer people to get in touch with
Definitely, email. I go through everything every morning and evening as I like to be
organised and not have a build-up. It’s so hard to be answering the phone all day and
working with a team and running around trying to get things done, including walking the
dog! There just isn’t enough time in a day. I spend a lot of time on the phone and Zoom with clients, friends and family, so it’s impossible to get anything done if you are continually answering the phone.