Baring extraordinary digital success, it seems likely that Australia’s major mag publishers will cut some of their titles loose in the coming year.

Circulation figures released overnight revealed Australia’s most popular women’s magazines took fearsome hits in the 12 months to June. Female-skewing powerhouses the Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and New Idea lost a lot of ground.

Bauer Magazine’s the Australian Women’s Weekly fell 9.8% to under 400,000 copies a month. Women’s Day, from the same publisher, is down 12.4% to under 300,000 a week, and Pacific Magazine’s New Idea took a 14.5% circulation fall — it’s down to 281,000 copies a week.

Sixteen of the 78 magazines covered in the survey recorded higher sales in the year to June — from the 21% jump in sales of 4X4 Australia (a Bauer monthly) to 14,428, to the 16.3% jump in sales of James Halliday’s Wine Companion for Hardie Grant (bi-monthly) to more than 27,200. Bauer’s Money magazine (which used to be tied to a TV program on Nine) recorded a 3.2% rise in sales over the year to June to 45,795, a rare event. And the Bauer car mags Wheels (up 3% to 41,584 copies a month) and Motor, up (6.3% to 20,332), did well in the 12 months.

These jumps show some magazines, particularly those aimed at men, are still surviving. But their performance is inconsequential to the finances of Australia’s three major magazine publishers, which depend heavily on the success of the ad-filled, high-circulation female-friendly magazines.

The biggest loser in the audit was Cosmopolitan, which recorded a massive 42% fall to 45,309 copies a month, a loss of nearly 33,000 copies in over the year. In June 2013 it was selling more than 98,000 copies a month. Cosmopolitan’s fate now seems to be heading in the direction of Cleo, which was canned by Bauer at the start of this year.

Stablemate Dolly’s move to a bi-monthly earlier this year didn’t help the faltering Bauer title — its sales are down 26%, to 30,010. It’s doing slightly worse than its main competition — Pacific Magazine’s Girlfriend lost more than 17% of its sales in the year to 31,043.

The women’s titles doing better tended to be glossy monthlies — high-brow fashion titles like Vogue (up 0.1%), Vogue Living (up 0.6%) and Harper’s Bazaar (up 0.8%) aren’t operating off massive circulations to start with, but at least they’re not going backwards. The odd one in the category is Pacific’s Marie Claire — down 10.3% to 72,346 copies.

Peter Fray

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