Balancing the Grind with Amy Cooper, Head of Content at Bauer Media

Amy Cooper is the Head of Content at Bauer Media, where she leads the digital content teams and audience development across the women’s and entertainment titles.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I started out, as many people do, as the very enthusiastic intern who just wouldn’t leave. I was born and raised in Adelaide and studying a double degree in Law and Media when I went to Sydney for an internship at Mamamia.

I had felt quite torn over which direction I wanted to take my career in after I graduated as I didn’t feel particularly passionate about pursuing a career as a lawyer and while I had such a love for women’s media, I knew jobs were scarce and it was going to be a really tough industry to break into.

Luckily Mamamia took me on as a casual where I worked the weekend shifts from Adelaide while I finished my studies, and then as a site producer in a full time role after I graduated. 

I always imagined myself in a staff writer role but I quickly realised I was quite obsessive about what makes our audience tick and I ultimately ended up in an Editorial Strategy role with Mamamia before I moved over to Bauer (now Are Media) in Sydney to work in audience development across their digital titles.

I was lucky enough to be part of an international audience development working group when I was with Bauer in Australia, which is where I met my current boss, Ian. I then moved over to London to work for Bauer’s UK business in early 2018. 

I’m now Head of Content where I lead digital content teams and audience development across a number of our women’s and entertainment titles. It really is the best of both worlds in terms of where my interests lie and while I don’t get to write as much as I would like to, my remit is quite broad and includes everything from editorial direction to social strategy and platform relationships. 

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’ve been working from home for over a year now and in some form of lockdown for the best part of the last six months, so truth be told I wish my days were a little more exciting! One thing I realised I was missing at the end of 2020 was my commute.

Not the squished under someone’s armpit on a sweaty tube carriage for the best part of an hour bit, but the time before work that was mine to listen to a podcast or read a book and get my thoughts in order before the work day began so I’ve been making an effort to get up and do something before work – I didn’t realise how much I needed the structure of a morning routine until I lost it.

Because of the breadth of brands I’m across every day is quite different. Today I woke up at 7.30am and checked my phone.

My family are all in Australia so there are normally quite a few messages in the family group chat or a missed call from Mum waiting for me when I wake up and I’ll have a little bit of a scroll through Instagram, Twitter and my news apps (I subscribe to the New York Times and then also love the BBC and ABC apps).

I won’t read my emails before work, but I’ll usually take a quick look at my inbox just so I know if there’s anything pressing I need to know before 9am.

Sometimes I’ll go for a walk before work but today I made myself a coffee and read for 45 minutes with my phone on Do Not Disturb. After that, it’s a very short walk from the sofa to my desk (our dining table) and I’m there by 9am to check in with my team.  

I start each morning by checking out the previous day’s traffic for each website and take a look at how each brand is tracking towards our monthly targets and against certain entry points.

I’m incredibly proud of our editorial teams – our content calendar and plans for 2020 more or less disappeared over night in March of last year but they’ve maintained strong YOY growth and really ensured that we adjusted our content offering to meet the moment.

Then it’s normally a series of meetings up until lunchtime. Today we had our weekly Mother&Baby and Yours catchup where we go through the previous week’s performance and what we’re focusing on over the next week.

Then I met with the Grazia team to discuss Oscars coverage. The weather is lovely here today so my flatmate and I walked down to Tower Bridge to have lunch by the river and get out of the flat for a bit – one of the perks of working from home!

I live with my best mate Hannah and I’m so lucky to have spent this time in lockdown with someone whose company I adore, particularly when she’s been the only person I’ve been legally allowed to hang out with for most of the year.

Once I get back to work it’s more meetings and 1:1s with my teams and editing stories. I’ll generally block out some time in my diary to action some of the bigger projects that have been discussed and try to keep on top of my inbox!

Over lockdown the evenings felt quite monotonous, it was normally an exercise class and then dinner and watching something on TV before reading and then bed. Now that things are opening up I’ve finally got a bit more on, and tonight I’m meeting some friends for dinner.  

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Even before COVID turned our lives upside down I felt extraordinarily lucky to work for an employer that valued flexibility and trusted its staff to work from home when needed.

I used to work from home one day a week and while I never quite saw this past year coming, I was really proud of how quickly our team rose to the challenge and adapted to a new way of working.

One thing that is integral to successful flexible or remote arrangements is trust and transparency, and I think the last year has proven that there’s not a one size fits all model. Some people do their best work at the office and others thrive working from home and both are okay.      

While working from home full time I’ve found I’ve missed a sense of routine and bookending my days. I miss the ritual of getting up and getting ready to go somewhere and there have been times, particularly when there’s been breaking news, that I’ve really missed the buzz of being in an office environment.

I love having the option and flexibility to work from home but I’m also excited to meet up with my team again when it’s safe to do so, it’s really nice to be around people who are passionate and excited about what they do and I love collaborating with people. 

Things are just starting to open up here after what has felt like the longest winter, and I’m really looking forward to having a life that isn’t confined to my flat and my walking route and rediscovering some sense of normality.

I found 2020 (and 2021 so far, to be completely honest!) quite challenging and feeling shut out of Australia was a really tricky emotional minefield to navigate.

I would normally spend Christmas back home and then I had COVID in January and, while I’m really lucky I don’t have any long-term issues, I felt like I ended the month just feeling emotionally and physically drained. It wasn’t the best start to the year and I’m really looking forward to getting vaccinated and having some semblance of a life and routine again. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

 To be honest the one thing my life has been missing lately is balance because we haven’t been able to do anything other than walk and work for so long.

The city has just started to reopen and it’s reminded me how much I’ve missed having plans after so many months where my calendar was just a blank slate.

It’s honestly just such a joy to see people out and about and feel some sense of normality. In terms of balance, I’m quite ambitious and take a lot of pride and joy from my work.

It’s such a privilege to be in a role that marries my skill set and my interests but I think people in creative fields can be prone to burnout and it’s certainly something I’ve experienced before as I feel like I’m often consuming content in my own time through the lens of “is this a thing? What are people searching for about this show? Should we be covering it?” which can often feel a little draining and like you’re always on. 

The things that are so important to me in terms of achieving balance and feeling centred are my relationships, reading and exercise.

The people in my life are so important to me and even if I can’t be physically present with so many of my loved ones in Australia, I want to be a good daughter, sister and friend and checking in with the people I love is so important and something I’ll always make time for.

I’m lucky I also have a great group of friends in the UK, a mix of wonderful Brits and other Aussie expats who appreciate what it’s felt like to be abroad at this moment in time. My other non-negotiables are to read before bed and I’ve only really become a consistent exerciser in the last year and I feel like I finally get it. Endorphins aren’t a myth! Who knew? 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

Partly because it is one of the only things we’ve been allowed to do and also because I know it’s really good for my mental health, but I’ve started exercising regularly and probably have the best relationship with exercise that I have ever had.

I really love a spin class and reformer pilates (sadly, indoor exercise classes are still illegal at the moment) and the Peloton app has been incredible over lockdown.

I used to dine out and buy lunch a lot too and, while I’m still profoundly average, I’ve become slightly more competent and self-sufficient in the kitchen (although I imagine anyone who’s ever been subject to my cooking might have a few things to say about that).

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

This is my favourite question because I love nothing more than a good recommendation. My friend and former colleague Zoe Rochford, who I met at Mamamia, actually have an Instagram dedicated to recommendations.

I love The Daily from The New York Times and The Guardian’s Today In Focus podcasts for news, and Shameless and Who? Weekly for celebrity and pop culture commentary.

For anyone that’s interested in journalism or writing Longform, In Writing with Hattie Crisell and the Digiday podcasts are great. I also love a great conversation about career and really enjoy Ctrl Alt Delete, How I Built This and In Good Company.

My dear friend and former colleague Elissa Ratliff who heads up podcasts at Mamamia just launched Extraordinary Stories: Magazine Queens which is fascinating for those of us who have worked in mags but also for anyone that’s grown up with magazines as a cultural touchpoint. 

But the best podcast I’ve listened to recently is the Sentimental Garbage mini series Sentimental in the City which is Dolly Alderton and Caroline O’Donoghue discussing their love of Sex And The City and it’s just so funny that it made me wish my little daily walks along the river could go for even longer. My flatmate and I almost talk exclusively in reference to the show at the moment. 

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters that look at journalism and the digital world – Digiday and Nieman Lab are two of my favourites here but I also love reading POLITICO London Playbook each morning and I’ve found myself subscribing to a lot of Substacks lately.  Culture Study by Anne Helen Petersen and Hung Up by Hunter Harris are two of my favourites. 

Reading is one of the few times I truly get out of my own head and just immerse myself in a story without distraction and it’s one of the best things I do for my mental health. Some of my favourite books over the last few years include The Nightingale, The Vanishing Half, Where The Crawdads Sing, The Only Plane In The Sky, The Heart’s Invisible Furies and An American Marriage

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

This is not something I thought I would have said a year ago, but I’m obsessed with Peloton at the moment and the app has been a total lifesaver over lockdown.

I don’t own the bike (although I hope to when I have the space) but the range of classes available is great and instructors like Cody Rigsby and Olivia Amato have been my lockdown MVPs.

I can see why people are so evangelical about the brand and I’m thrilled it’s launching in Australia later this year so more people can experience it.

On the tech front, I couldn’t live without my Apple Watch, AirPods, Kindle and (it sounds obvious but it’s true!) my iPhone. I know a lot of people feel appalled by their screen time and mine is through the roof, but it’s the thing that keeps me connected to my home and my family and I don’t know what I would do without FaceTime. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

There are so many people whose career trajectories I am fascinated by so it’s quite a long list, but I’d have to say Glossier founder Emily Weiss.

I’m a huge fan of Glossier’s products and Emily got her start in women’s magazines before launching her blog Into The Gloss and I think the pivot from creating beauty content to launching a tangible product based on audience feedback was just executed so seamlessly.

I’m always impressed by their content marketing and activations and would love to pick Emily’s brain. Closer to home, I’ve been in awe of my colleagues who have juggled busy jobs, childcare and home schooling over the last few months.

I know everyone’s had such a different experience over lockdown and while I’ve felt like I’ve had too much time on my hands, so many of the women and men I work with have made spinning so many plates look so seamless. They all deserve a medal. 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

One thing I think I’ve realised as a result of living through this pandemic is that who you are is about so much more than what you do. I used to see being busy as such a badge of honour and my job has always been such a huge part of my identity.

While my job is still a big part of who I am, I think having everything stripped back over 2020 really forced me to look at what I value most and I’ve reframed what success means to me and have realised it’s about so much more than my CV. 

It’s been a really challenging year and a real exercise in resilience for so many people and I’ve been so grateful for the people around me – whether that’s in real life or via FaceTime – and I hope that I have been supportive and present to the people in my life and made things a little easier for them too.

I hate that I can no longer jump on a plane and be back in Australia within 24 hours if something happens, and I’m so grateful that I have a boss that has been so understanding of what it’s like to be an expat during a pandemic and I hope if you were to ask my team that they would say I’ve been a supportive and empathetic boss over a really tough year. 

I think I’ve learned a lot about myself both personally and professionally over the last year and I hope I carry a lot of those lessons forward and continue to carve out – and be protective – of the time I spend doing the things I love and I hope that, as we come out of lockdown, my life is balanced but also really full.

I’m looking forward to more rewarding work, going on holidays, reading some great books, seeing more of the UK and being around the people that mean the most to me. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.