If the newspaper sales figures for 2010 were bad, magazine circulations for the December quarter and across 2010 were diabolical. There were a few small gains — Frankie remains a spectacular success — but the loses for ACP Magazines and Pacific Publications were considerable. Sydney’s Fusion Strategy said it was “another shocker of a result” — not as bad as September but there wasn’t much in it.

ACP, part of the Nine Entertainment company, had the toughest time. In fact there were reports earlier in the week that CVC has postponed its attempt to float the firm until the second half of the year to allow management time to fix up the poorly performing magazines division. It might have a majority of circulations, but the group is bleeding sales at a rate faster than Seven’s Pacific.

Some of ACP’s big titles like The Australian Women’s Weekly (off 3.2% for the year), Grazia (down 19% last year, a real disaster), Woman’s Day (down 6%) and Cleo (down 14.1%) were black holes. But Belle rose 8.4% and Australian House and Garden was up 7.1% to 108,000. Even the most successful magazine of recent years, Pacific’s Better Homes and Gardens lost 1.9% (7488 copies) of its sales in 2010 to 384,512, down from 392,000 at the end of 2009. But it’s still up from the 350,000 it was selling three years ago. It’s been successful because of the tie-in with Seven’s TV show on Friday nights, but it’s growth has stopped and you’d have to think it has peaked.

Grazia, a key ACP title, lost 19% of its sales in 2010, or nearly 12,600 copies every issue. It shed 12.4% in the June-December six months and at this rate may not see the end of the year. The decision by one in five readers to stop buying it is pretty powerful, which usually brings closure. Women’s Day is now selling 385,000 copies a week, down 6% in the year or 24,500 copies. More than half that fall came in the last six months of the year. For comparison, the Day was selling more than 465,000 copies a week in the last quarter of 2007.

Pacific’s New Idea, the competitor for Women’s Day, is approaching the level where a decision will have to be made about its future. It sold 316,527 copies in the last quarter of 2010, down 4.1% for the year (or more than 13,500 copies an issue). And Who Weekly, the gossip-riddled Pacific title, shed 5% or 6900 sales an issue for the year — just 131,000 still read it. ACP’s NW, similarly, shed 9.3% of its sale over the year while OK lost 12.5%.

Pacific did have a big win: Famous saw sales rise 5.5% to just over 90,200 copies an issue. Could some of the New Idea readers have been seduced away by the stablemate? For ACP, Harpers Bazaar was up 6.6%. And its Madison title was down by less than 1% for the year, another good result. In business, BRW added 0.1%, — just 50 copies — over the year to 40,300, down 10.5% from the 45,040 an issue in the June quarter of last year. BRW was selling just over 40,000 copies an issue three years ago. AFR Smart Investors sold 51,520 copies an issue in the final quarter of 2010, down 13.6% or 8100 copies.

The big success story is again Frankie, up 32.5% to 50,832 copies an issue. That and News Limited’s MasterChef title, selling a publisher’s estimate of 150,000 an issue — but we won’t know for a year how it is really going. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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