Only those with long memories will recall Horne’s time as editor of Weekend, though it was a formative period of his intellectual life. As a minor executive, he learned to navigate the secretive politics of the Packer media empire. He came to see buccaneering entrepreneurs, management styles and office hierarchies as sources of intellectual curiosity. Crucially, he developed a mind for marketing: Weekend had a circulation of over 400,000 and the priority was always to find ways to increase the size and loyalty of this readership. Magazines, he told his staff, existed on two levels: the ‘superficial’ level (‘the person who skims and does nothing else’) and the ‘deeper’ level (‘the person who wants to settle down to a good read’). Weekend had to be both.
Horne gradually lost interest in Weekend, especially after the launch of the intellectual fortnightly Observer, and later the takeover of the Bulletin, both of which he also edited. In 1961, amid falling sales, the magazine was merged with Packer’s newly acquired Australian Woman’s Mirror and renamed Everybody’s. The new magazine laboured along until 1968, but Horne’s involvement ended in 1962 when he left for a job in advertising. Though his time at Weekend appears to be out of sync with his future career, it honed his talent for salesmanship and simple prose. In later life, these skills helped transform Donald Horne from the author of a popular book into one of Australia’s most recognisable intellectuals.