It’s not a good look for advertisers, but our two big magazine groups, ACP and Pacific, are going to have to get used to the fact that many of their titles are now seen as disposable purchases by their readers. Some of the major titles — such as New Idea, That’s Life (Pacific), Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day (ACP) — suffered circulation falls of 6 to 12% in the year to June, with most of that occurring in the June quarter as interest rates rose, petrol prices soared and retail purchases dropped.  News Ltd can’t be too happy with the performance of some of the FPC mags it picked up last year when it bought out the Hannan family’s local papers and magazines. To frocks, make up and some food items, we can add major women’s magazines as products consumers, mostly women, stopped buying in the quarter. For all their talk about being ‘must buys’, women’s magazines such as Woman’s Day and New Idea have emerged as discretionary buys — as have titles such as FHM and Ralph, two vulgar men’s magazines which both lost more than 20% of their sales in the year to June for ACP.  The latest June 30 quarterly newspaper audits might be good and bad news for the News Ltd and Fairfax Media papers. The disaster area was magazines, especially women’s, men’s and most lifestyle titles for PBL Media’s ACP, less so for Seven Media’s Pacific Magazines. Of the two, the damage was greatest at ACP because its parent has a pressing debt problem with $4.2 billion owed to banks over the Packer buyout. ACP found that having over 50% of the market gave it no protection from readers bent on saving money. Now for advertisers to adjust the money they are paying. No doubt ACP and Pacific will be arguing that these magazines will bounce back, but it has been a long history of falling sales for this segment in recent years. Seven Media Group has more than $3 billion in debt, but it does have the Seven network making good money and one outstanding magazine success, Better Homes and Gardens, which saw sales rise 13.9% in the June quarter of this year to 325,000 copies, from the 295,000 a year earlier. Thanks to the tie in with Seven’s program of the same time that dominates Friday evening viewing at 7.30 pm, the magazine’s circulation went completely against the ugly trend for women’s and men’s interest magazines — with the exception of bike and car mags, which saw a 1% lift, and the rural category. Pacific’s New Idea lost 7.9% of its audited sales in the June quarter and 10.7% over the year; Famous shed 4.1% in the quarter and 10.7% over the year; That’s Life lost 2.6% of its sales over the quarter and 6.6% over the year; and Who Weekly lost  4.9% in the quarter and just 2.6% over the year. Pacific’s Marie Claire‘s sales were steady on 115,000 for the year, which was a bid odd given the carnage elsewhere in women’s mags. Instyle, another Pacific title, lost 4.9% of its sales. Men’s Health gained 10.3%, as did Women’s Health. At ACP, Woman’s Day shed 8.5% in the quarter and 10.5% over the year, the Women’s Weekly lost 12.4% of its audited sales over the year. NW (New Weekly) shed 10% of its sales in the June quarter and 11.9% over the year, Dolly lost 12.3% over the year, Cosmo a huge 18.7% and Shop Til’ You drop 6%, 6.6%. Murdoch Magazines saw its flagship Notebook title lose 10.6% of its sales over the year, although Vogue Australia added 1.4%. ACP’s Belle magazine added 19%, but from a low base of 27,000 copies.  ACP’s men’s magazine FHM lost a huge 28% of its audited sales over the year, while Ralph, another semi-skin pic mag for blokes, lost 26.5% of its sales. Both were remarkable losses and could mean merging or the death.

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Peter Fray
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