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Australia can’t get enough consumer magazines – news commentary by Andy McCourt

Thursday, 25 August 2005
By Print 21 Online Article

In the past year total sales of audited consumer magazines rose 1.2% to around $1.05 billion. Advertising revenue posted a bumper 11.6% increase in the first half of 2005 compared to the same period in 2004.

At least ten new consumer titles have launched this year including ACP’s monster Madison in March. As reported on Print21online two weeks ago, PMP produced an even larger 400-page issue of Pacific Magazine’s Marie Claire to mark its tenth anniversary this month.

Home, lifestyle, food, women’s and health categories were the big winners according to the ABC figures. Some notable increases:

  • Shop Till You Drop + 29.9%
  • New Woman + 11%%
  • Cosmopolitan + 10.2%%
  • Australian Country Threads + 22.9%%
  • Men’s Health + 12.2%%
  • Penthouse + 18.9%%
  • Dirt Action + 11.5%

Sharp decreases were recorded in some sectors, reflecting rapid changes in consumer expectations. Barbie plummeted -47.7%, Burke’s Backyard by -21.2%, Inside Sport by -21.5%, The Bulletin by -13%, Time by -11.2% and 4×4 Trader by -10.9%.

On the newspaper front, virtually all mastheads recorded decreases or plateau circulations. Only Victoria and Tasmania’s Sundays showed any verve, with the Sunday Age and rival Sunday Sun-Herald both up 2.8% and the Sunday Tasmanian up 2.3%. The West Australian, Financial Review and Northern Territory News posted modest gains but all ‘big’ papers dropped slightly with the Canberra Times down 3.2%, possibly indicating literacy problems in the capitol.

Nevertheless, advertising dollars continue to flood into the right glossy magazine titles with new start-ups and makeovers targeting demographics not serviced by ‘tired’ older titles.

There’s no sign of let-up with Tim Trumper, chairman of the Magazine Publishers of Australia, quoted as saying, “There is optimism in the magazine sector.”

MY CALL – Goes to show if you do something well and understand your target market, you’ll win out whatever the media. It’s not just at the web production end that we are seeing great changes. This year’s magazines look brighter, more dynamic, better merchandised and ‘out there.’ Interesting, creative ideas will never go out of style and with society’s trend to form urban ‘tribe’ cultures; there are plenty of opportunities to service niche interests with a magazine.

Whilst the publishers are sitting reasonably pretty with the increased advertising revenue, the boom does not necessarily translate down to the printers, who are still struggling with margins eroded by increased raw material costs and punitive negotiations for contracts. This has still not stopped the massive re-kitting of the press halls and maybe, just maybe, the new automated gear will run at lower cost-per-copy.

All computing and business titles in the ABC audit lost circulation, indicating that these sectors are turning more to the internet for information.

But take heart from the fact that Australia’s biggest circulating magazine at 819,809 copies and an increase of 8.2% services electronic media.

Yes, Foxtel magazine pips everything else, and it’s all subscription!

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