One of the personal finance industry’s gala events will be held on Wednesday night – the annual Personal Investment magazine awards for financial products and companies. But it will be more like a wake, because Personal Investment is being closed down. So is the other major Fairfax business title in the personal finance space, Shares, and the two will apparently re-emerge as part of a new publication inserted monthly in the Australian Financial Review to be called AFR Smart Investor.

Figures
out next month for the first six months of 2005 are expected to show
both magazines under renewed circulation pressures. Last year PI gained 1.1% to a publisher’s estimate of 52,296 copies, but it lost sales in the second half of 2004. Shares also had a small gain, up 2.1% for the year, but down 3.1% in the second half.

Here’s how the news was reported in the rival Weekend Australian finance pages on Saturday: Fairfax shreds magazines. And here’s how the editor of Shares, Mike Dobbie, explained the news to his staff and advertisers in a memo last Friday:

Dear Colleagues,

This
email is to advise you about proposed changes to the five monthly
finance and investment magazine titles (ie excluding the weekly
business magazine BRW) at Fairfax Business Media – Magazines.

Last
Friday, Fairfax Business Media told managing editors and staff of a
proposal to make several changes to these five magazines. While this is
still a proposal, there are implications for Shares magazine and I have been authorised by FBM – Magazines’ Associate Publisher to advise you of the proposed changes.

It
is proposed that production of all five finance and investment
magazines will be relocated from FBM – Magazines in Melbourne to the Australian Financial Review offices in Sydney. Shares magazine and Personal Investor will cease to be produced in October. A new magazine, AFR Smart Investor,
a monthly newsstand title combining elements of the two closed
magazines, will be produced in Sydney under a new managing editor with
the first issue scheduled for December 2005.

The staff
affected by this proposal have been offered voluntary redundancies,
assistance with relocation to Sydney, or possible redeployment within
FBM and The Age. At this stage, I am considering what I will do. I have been told AFR Smart Investor will continue to use some Shares

Most importantly, we are still producing three issues of Shares
before the change: the September cover-dated issue (the copy deadline
for this issue is before noon Wednesday, July 27), also the October
issue. The November issue (on sale mid-October) will be the last Shares
magazine. That is as much as I know, as this stage. I had no prior
knowledge of this announcement. I am happy to speak to you about this –
although I must stress that you know as much as I do now.

Shares
magazine has finished the financial year just ended with a strong
EBITDA result that exceeded budget. Over the past year it has cemented
its recent circulation gains, enjoyed outstanding newsstand sales
(particularly the Hot Stocks 2005 issue), and seen rock solid
subscriber numbers – all this despite the market jitters of early 2005.
Shares remains Australia’s number one investment magazine. And as you will have seen, Shares
has enjoyed extremely strong advertising support that was so great we
were able to increase the pagination size of the book in recent months.

It has been a wonderful pleasure for me working with you all
and I’d like to thank each of you for your hard work, excellent ideas,
and most particularly your friendship and support over the past three
years that I have been managing editor of this great magazine.

My kindest regards and grateful thanks to all of you.

Peter Fray

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