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Women in Media - Nicole Sheffield

Welcome to MediaScope's profile series where we regularly ask 'Women in Media' about their career and experiences in our industry. 

This time we feature one of the most senior women in our industry - NewsLifeMedia's CEO, Nicole Sheffield.

Thanks to Nicole for getting involved.

  • Your Name:  Nicole Sheffield
  • Works With:  NewsLifeMedia
  • Your Role: CEO

Tell us about your industry background?Women in Media - Nicole Sheffield - NewsLifeMedia

I started my career in Law. I couldn't advise to save my life and realised I was better at doing. So I started again, took a big pay cut and joined a graduate program at Telstra. Best thing I ever did. 


It turned out to be one of my career defining moments as it taught me a rule I still hold true every day, the only real thing that matters is your customer. How they feel, experience, use you, your product. What is their perception of your brand? I had five fabulous years there working in a number of roles in its multimedia division, most challenging back then when the internet was something that came out of a modem that made an incredibly loud noise! 


I then spent 18 months as general manager of Tias eCommerce (a QANTAS company) which taught me loads about building teams and managing P&Ls - however I quickly realised that my passion wasn't technology it was content. So I joined PMP Communications as general manager of Pacific Online, the online division of the magazine company. 


Following the sale of Pacific Magazines to Seven I was promoted to the role of group publisher of the lifestyle and youth titles and had the pleasure of launching Famous, Total Girl and working with the talented team at Better Homes & Gardens - and just really got under the skins of these great brands. 


I then moved to FOXTEL’s LifeStyle Channels group as general manager of The LifeStyle Channel and LifeStyle FOOD launching two additional channels while I was in the role – LifeStyle YOU and LifeStyle HOME. Another decision which defied logic as at the time the magazine business was substantially bigger than STV - but I made the move because I knew I had to learn about video. That's where the world was heading and with everything converging it was the gap in media I didn't understand. I also wanted to own my digital assets again, as after Yahoo7 was formed I realised I needed to own my digital assets because I need to get as close to my consumers, readers, users as possible and help them with their lives.


So I joined LifeStyle and it was such an amazing four years. TV is overwhelming and vibrant and visual and understood - we created great channels, greater brands and fabulous productions that were bigger than the channel numbers they sat on. 


What is your current role and what do you do?


I am the CEO of NewsLifeMedia, a wholly owned business of News Corp Australia. 


I’m responsible for developing and directing business strategies across the NewsLifeMedia network of websites and magazines which include some of the most powerful and trusted brands in the country – including, Donna Hay, Vogue, GQ, Country Style, Body+Soul, and Australia’s number one news site,


As a content services business our brands are the taste makers and original influencers.  Through continuous evolution we are delivering market leading products and platforms. With the expansion of consumer consumption we are ensuring that our brands are available across multiple platforms with a strong social media following to enable us to have conversations with our consumers every day.


It's a great privilege and a tremendous challenge however I know with these great brands and a fabulous team of the most talented minds in the country we are building an exciting new future. 


What are your family circumstances and how do you manage your work/life balance?


I’m a mother of four children and very lucky to have a great support network. I believe in the philosophy it takes a village to raise children and I have a fantastic village - a wonderful mother (who still can't forgive me for working), an incredible mother-in-law who was a single mum and believes "a man is not a financial plan", and a brilliant husband who was raised by a single mum so therefore cleans, irons and cooks far better than me. We share the load! I also like being busy.


Please outline your views on the general media industry – what is the State of the Media?


Media has always been a very dynamic industry. It is without a doubt the most exciting and stimulating (and exhausting) time to be in media.


It is also the most exciting time to connect with consumers. Changing technology has liberated consumer access to information and fundamentally shifted the power balance. Media is right at the pointy end of this however we can see it flowing through all parts of economy… retail, education, finance.


Today’s consumers own multiple screens and devices and move seamlessly through the day. They read a recipe in one of our magazines, create a shopping list on their Smartphone, then use a tablet in the kitchen to cook their meal – context drives content and platform. 


Our job is to match the right content to the right screen and think about the consumer journey as a whole, specific content and creative for each screen/device.


However the most important thing we are seeing more and more is the value of brands and trust in content people value.


What is your view on the current position of women in the media industry?


Media employs more women than so many other industries however it saddens me that so few are rising to the top.


What advice would you offer to your younger self as you started your career in our industry?


Embrace change and adapt quickly. Take every opportunity given to you and always remain optimistic.


I’ve loved every minute of my career and wouldn’t do anything differently. Although maybe there is one thing, I would have liked to work overseas before having children.


What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?


I am not backwards in coming forwards so I’ve always made my position very clearly known in every role I’ve been in, I’m not one to give up.  Women are creative and think broadly, they are also very in touch with what consumers want - whether they are readers, viewers, users... We are passionate, creative and organised.


Unfortunately Australia is way behind the rest of the world but we make progress every day.


I’ve been given many opportunities in my career by both male and female executives but it was the female executives in my early years that made the biggest impact on my decisions and life/career choices.  They left an indelible print on the choices I made later in both my career and with my family.


What can our industry do right now to better recognise & support women & families?


We need to retain experienced and educated female workers, it is in everyone’s best interest.


If the cost of childcare was tax deductible, it would be the most effective way to stem the continuing and alarmingly high departure from the workforce of highly skilled women in their 30s and 40s. Vogue ran an incredibly popular feature which highlighted that a female needs to earn $104k per year ($77,570 after tax), which places her in the top 1.7 percent of all female wage earners, just to pay for full-time in home care for her children as the hours expected of any executive are onerous and often unpredictable. I know this first hand as I worked for five years when having my children to keep my career alive, with minimal financial gain.


One thing I have always tried to do is give women support in the workplace and as much practical advice as I can based on my own experiences. We are always on and always contactable, you don’t always have to be in the office and I’m very supportive of that.


What media do you consume?


My favourite site is – It’s so broad with a balance in the reporting of critical news events and the issues that get people talking. There is always something to keep me informed, shock me, make me smile and keep me intrigued.


My fave program at the moment is The Block – I’m in the middle of renovations and there is nothing like a good makeover.


In my job I read a lot, so this one is like asking me to choose between my children. I just had a wonderful weekend with magazine and cooked two of the recipes for my family – so today, it’s magazine.


I also read MediaWeek every week to keep across what’s happening in the industry.



Thank you to Nicole to getting involved in MediaScope's ongoing Women in Media profile series.

  • If you know a 'Woman in Media' you'd like to see profiled please get in touch with your suggestion.


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