You wouldn’t credit it but in the
midst of the biggest stockmarket boom we’ve had, the most prosperous
economic conditions for decades, let alone the strong news events of
last few months, Australia’s news and finance magazines are bombing
badly at the newsstands and with readers.

Not stagnating, actually sliding sharply in some cases.

Bar two exceptions, the latest Audit
figures for the business magazines category for the December half shows
circulation slumps all over the shop, both compared to the June half
and the last six months of 2003.

In fact the category experienced the
second largest circulation fall in the six months to December 2004,
compared to a year ago and it seems the fall grew in the second half of
the year, despite very strong conditions on the stockmarket.

The two exceptions were Shares and Personal Investor, both part of the Fairfax business magazines group overseen by Michael Gill, who also looks after The Australian Financial Review.

The worst performer was ACP’s The Bulletin.
It is looking sick, after losing 11.1% in circulation from the December
six months in 2003 to the same period of 2004. It now sells 62,000
copies, down from 69,770 copies at June 2004 and 69,712 at December
2003.

No wonder it has been tacked onto Business Sunday
at the Nine Network. Anything to slow the rot! Even Tim Blair, it
seems, whose sell out from the independent world of blogging to the big
end of town probably won’t help sell the magazine.

After a federal election, the situation in Iraq, terrorism plus the buoyant economy, you’d expect a better showing from The Bulletin.

But then Time Magazine from
Time Inc was also a loser, shedding 7% over the year from the December
2003 half to December 2004. Maybe all these disappearing readers are
now hooking into Crikey as traffic has doubled over the past year to
more than 1.2 million page views a month. Time does clearly outsell The Bulletin. Its circulation in the latest period was 50 % larger at 92,029, compared with 99,757 a year earlier.

While the circulations of Shares and Personal Investor both grew by 2.1% and 1.1% respectively in the latest half, their stablemate BRW didn’t fare so well, slipping 2.9% or about 1600 copies to 54,415.

BRW’s fall however was
sharper when compared to June 2004 when its circulation kicked upwards
to 57,950. So the fall in the December half, compared to June was
actually a much steeper 6.1%. That’s not very good seeing how the
stockmarket accelerated in the second half.

Personal Investor sold 52,296 copies in the December half and Shares 59,512, both up on December 2003, but like BRW both fell compared to the June figure. PI was off 0.8% compared to June and Shares, 3.1%.

ACP’s Money magazine
continues to shrink, losing ground on December 2003 and June last year.
Overall it has lost around 5.7% in sales and is now nudging the 50,000
mark, the lowest of the share market-orientated magazines. Paul
Clitheroe is no longer a big drawcard for the magazine.

But the biggest losses were
experienced by the Australian Property Investor. Its circulation slid
36.3% from December to December while the fall from June last year to
December 2004 was 25.5%. Clearly at 23,772 copies, Australian Property
Investor is well off the boil. Its circulation a year earlier was
37,303.

If you wanted a good an indicator of
the impact of the property downturn, the fall of 13,600 copies in a
magazine clearly aimed at property investors says it all.

API is published by a group called Australian Commercial Publishing. (http://www.apimagazine.com.au/) It’s a wonder PBL’s ACP didn’t have a go at them to change the name or the initials.

Overall the category lost 7.5% in circulation, the second largest fall after the general interest category.