Only one magazine publisher found something to celebrate in the December half circulation figures, and it wasn’t industry giant ACP, or its rival, the Seven Network owned Pacific Publications.

The bragging rights belong to UK group Emap, while the Hannan family’s FPC could claim some modest gains for some of its publications, enough to keep it as number three publisher in the country and ahead of Emap and others

We’ve already looked at the depressing performance for the business magazines, but among the major titles, both ACP and Pacific Publications had a little joy, but not among their major titles.

However, compared to newspapers, most magazine publishers found something postive in the December half circulation figures from the Audit Bureau (with the exception of Michael Gill’s Fairfax Business Publications).

For all newspaper publishers it was mostly unremitting gloom, especially Fairfax.

Emap though can claim to be the best the best performer, with sales of its New Woman (up 14.8% December half on December half) and Barbie (20.6%) titles up strongly. Emap also experienced gains for its Smash Hits title, up 15.9% over the year. Its men’s title though, FHM lost 3.3% over the year but was up over the last six months. Some of its action sports titles also did well.

ACP received some benefit from Emap’s performance as its online magshop site handles Emap magazines as third party publications. Industry sources say these have been more in the way of trials and there’s a suggestion that Emap may use the ACP Network Services to handle more of its magazines.

Sources say Emap is conducting focus groups on a number of new magazines in Sydney at the moment.

There were concerns in the industry that the problems with the 1st Fleet magazine distribution contracts may have impacted some circulations in the six months to December and that may have been a factor in some cases, and not a concern in others.

The approach to the results was different from the major publishers. There was nothing from the Packer controlled ACP group, which had a very mixed year, while the Seven Network issued a statement on Pacific’s performance.

Go to the ACP website and you find no chat or comment. In fact it hasn’t been updated for months. The August 13 circulation figures for last year have come and gone. It looks like a ghost site and this might have something to do with the shutdown of information available from the PBL websites since John Alexander took over as CEO last June.

The efficient Jill Campbell found other work with AMP and left PBL as the media contact. Now it’s a switchboard phone number for PBL. We’ll keep checking the ACP websites to see if they update the circulation figures for each magazine, especially the ones that fell like The Bulletin, Woman’s Day and Australian Women’s Weekly.

The best rise was from Emap’s Barbie magazine, up 20% across the year to 58,022. Small figures but that rise occurred in the first six months of 2004 and there was a 0.8% fall from June to the December 2004 figures.

Compared to the industry giants at ACP and Pacific the Emap figures in absolute terms are more modest, but that’s better than some of the declines reported at ACP, which dominates the industry with around 47% of circulation and revenues.

The Australian Women’s Weekly fell over the 12 months and over the 6 months from June. By the end of December last year the 670,826 copies were 2.6% lower than the previous December and 1.7% under the June 2004 figures. The Weekly lost around 17, 500 or so copies a month over 2004.

Woman’s Day, the other mega title and profit powerhouse for ACP, lost 3.5% over the year, December to December and 1.1% June to December. At the end of 2004, Woman’s Day was selling 515,238 copies a week, more than 16,000 down over the year.

So was adding 10c to Woman’s Day’s cover price a calculated risk in view of these figures, or a calculated attempt to manage more revenue from a declining sales base, as ACP does so skilfully?

There was better news for ACP with NW, which jumped 14.7% over the year (3.6% from June to December) or more than 24,000 copies, a pretty good return.

Take 5, another ACP title, lost 0.9% over the year but gained 0.3% over the last six months of 2004 to 241,620. No wonder the cover price rose 10c last month.

ACP’s Cleo fell 2.8%, but Cosmo rose 8.2% to more than 220,000 copies.

TV Week rose 3.9% to 290,818, a solid result that continues the growth since being fully acquired by ACP three years ago.

Emap’s New Woman jumped 14% to reach 100,075 copies by last December.

At Pacific Publications, New Idea had a small fall of 0.8% over the year to 401,733 down about 3,700 copies.

That’s Life fell a much larger 7.8% and Family Circle was off 9.2% over the year to 350,817 and 95,301 respectively.

Marie Claire, which faces competition from ACP’s Hearst joint venture Madison from Monday February 21, added 0.4% over the 12 months to 109,271 (up 1.5% over the last six months of 2004).

Better Homes and Gardens fell 5.6% over the year, but jumped 10% over the six months to December from June to 288,818. With Seven now in charge of the magazine and show and with Burkes Backyard out of TV, Better Homes stands a better chance of growing. Burke’s Backyard fell 13.9% to 118,000 and with the program now off TV, the future is clouded for the ACP title.

Pacific’s Home Beautiful rose 0.1% to 75,653 but fell in the last six months of 2004 by more than 5%.

Girlfriend rose 6.5% to 135,821 for Pacific, but stablemate K-Zone slumped 15.7% to 118,866.

Total Girl rose 7.5%, Men’s Health jumped 20% to 56,048 copies and Weight Watchers magazine rose more than 11% to 87,374 copies.

That old stager Reader’s Digest did well, rising 6.2% over the year to 350,471 copies.

Who Weekly from Time Inc rose 8.6% to more than 153,000 copies, to offset the slide in Time magazine sales.

Australia’s third publisher, FPC, part of the Hannan family’s media interests in Sydney was far more informative than ACP, as this statement said.

FPC’s Vogue rose 3.4% and food magazine Delicious jumped 11.2%.

Peter Fray

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