In the six months to December 2012, Bauer Media Group’s stable of iconic young women’s monthlies were hit across the board: Cleo slumped 23.6%, Cosmopolitan fell 16.2%, Madison dropped 23.3% and Shop Till You Drop receded 14.9% year-on-year.
Likewise, Pacific Magazines’ InStyle dropped 8.2% and Marie Claire lost 9.6% of its sales, according to new figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Executive director of the Magazine Publishers Association (MPA) Robin Parkes told B&T the category’s audiences had been diluted by sector fragmentation.
“The young woman/fashion category has seen a lot of fragmentation into specific niches such as health, fashion, food, home and this means dilution in audience,” she said.
“It is seeing new directions with revamps, change of editors and heavily investing in the launch of Elle. It is a competitive market – the good news is that consumer interest is still strong as seen with stronger readership result.”
Bauer CEO Matt Stanton addressed the declines saying the publisher acknowledged the “tremendous change” in those magazines demographic's reading habits and were looking to evolve the titles.
“With the benefit of in-depth research we are heavily investing in these titles to better meet the rapidly evolving needs of this important market and will shortly announce some significant developments,” he said.
High fashion fared better. NewsLifeMedia’s Vogue and Bauer’s Harper’s Bazaar remained relatively steady on last year’s results, the former slipping an inconsequential 0.5% while Harper’s dipped only 2.8%.
Frankie Magazine, an alternative fashion and lifestyle title published by Morrison Media, continued its long-running growth spell, jumping 5% to a circulation of 60,852. Despite a hefty cover price – (Frankie charges $9.95 per issue), its bi-monthly circulation is now notably bigger than both Vogue (51,291) and Harpers Bazaar (52,635), each of which cost less ($8.50).
While the overall monthlies market dropped an average of 6% year-on-year, The Australian Women’s Weekly went neither up nor down, maintaining its market-leading position with vigour and 470,331 sales per month.
The result is almost entirely consistent with its circulation from the second half of 2011. In addition to its print sales, the title claimed 7,250 digital sales, taking its total masthead sales to 477,581.
The health sector performed robustly year-on-year, with Pacific Magazines’ Women’s Health up 0.3%, Bauer Media’s Good Health up 0.5% Diabetic Living jumping 8.4%, Prevention climbing 2% and Odysseus Publishing’s Men’s Fitness increasing 8.3%.
Pacific Magazines’ Men’s Health retreated 2.8% in print sales, but sales of digital editions bolstered its total masthead sales beyond what they were a year ago – to 73,132. Bauer Media’s Women’s Fitness – launched in September last year – was not audited.
In the home and lifestyle space things also boomed. Bauer’s Real Living shot up 15.3% and Belle climbed 13.4%, while Pacific Magazines’ Australian Home Beautiful jumped 4.3% and category market leader, Better Homes & Gardens, grew 2.7% to reach 388,110 sales per month.
Pacific Magazines CEO Nick Chan told B&T: “In the last three to five years that area has performed very well… home decoration and home design has become an expression of people’s style, especially for women.”
The MPA’s Parkes told B&T the category was “incredibly strong” because magazines in the sector spoke to an “incredibly engaged, motivated audience. These results reflect a general trend in society of spending more time at home, entertaining and renovating and also the appetite for information and trends," she said.
However, Family Circle, a broad-scope home-maker magazine, was hit dramatically. The Pacific Magazines' title slumped a major 33.1% and dropped from 126,174 to 84,358 sales, making it one of the hardest hit in the round.
Food also felt the heat. NewsLifeMedia’s Superfood Ideas – the biggest title in the space – lost 19% of its print circulation falling below the 200,000 mark to 163,292. Its additional 4,610 digital sales made up for little of its decline.
Woolworths Good Taste, also from NewsLifeMedia, slumped 22.8% to 82,388. Bauer’s Recipes+ fell 12.8% while Weight Watchers magazine also lost 15. 4% of its sales.
Delicious (NewsLifeMedia) slipped 4.6%. The latter lost its long-time editor-in-chief Trudi Jenkins in October last year and has not replaced her.
But there was better news for two of the leading food titles. While Australian Gourmet Traveller (Bauer) dropped 6% in print sales, it almost made up for the decline with sales of its digital edition which equalled 4,278. This took its total masthead sales to 75,803 – just shy of its total print circulation one year ago.
NewsLifeMedia’s Donna Hay also increased total masthead sales. While print sales fell 5.8% to 97,033 per month, it added almost 9,658 digital sales, taking its total sales to 106,691.
NewsLife MD Nicole Sheffield told B&T that the figures for food magazines only told part of, what is, a robust food sector.
"Food content is in more demant than ever. Despite the ebb and flow the category is strong and we are investing in our products… Key is our digital platform Taste.com.au which works hand in hand with the food brands," she said, pointing to the site's 15.5% growth since September 2011.
In the tween space there were some major winners and major losers. Pac Mags’ Total Girl rallied 5.7%, while K-Zone bumped up by 3.1% and Dolly (Bauer) edged up 0.2%.
But Pac Mags’ Girlfriend slumped 10.4% and Next Media’s Girl Power lost 14.5% of its sales.
A stand-out rise was Citrus Media’s Game Informer, which achieved 21.7% more sales in the six months to December taking its circulation to 52,816.
Bauer's Stanton said: "Consumers are still buying and reading magazines in their millions. People are prepared to pay for quality, compelling content. Even in a a period of ongoing consumer caution, five magazines are sold every minute in Australia."
The figures come four days after the MPA launched a new campaign to convince the industry of the power of magazine brands in pushing consumers to purchase.
The organisation has been spruiking the unique emotional connections readers have with magazines as a means to encourage advertiser investment.
Pacific Magazines’ Chan, who is an MPA Committee member, said he had faith the campaign would succeed.
“Given that magazines are probably the only significant paid medium along with newspapers, against this retail market the audience is still really solid," he told B&T.
“I think it’s going to take some time for us to convince people and turn perceptions out there. While we tend to focus on the [circulation and readership] trends, the absolute delivery of magazines is still very, very significant.”
Last year the MPA told the trade press it would lobby advertisers to attribute bigger shares of their marketing budgets to magazines in the year ahead.
MediaCom’s head of implementation and planning, Nick Keenan, believes that’s a fair ask, despite the overall declines. But while it may be a fair ask, it's not necessarily realistic.
He told B&T: “The problem the magazine publishers have got is a post GFC economy and a substantial increase in the dominance of digital.
“Advertisers don’t have bigger budgets at the moment because of the pressures around the economy, they’ve got either like-to-like budgets or slightly less, and they’re increasingly investing money online first and foremost because they need to get their digital ecosystems up and running and they don’t have extra marketing dollars to pay for it, so someone in the channel mix has to suffer,” he said.
“Rightly or wrongly magazines have been taken off a few marketers’ schedules. Magazines probably deserve a higher share considering the audience that they command but the reality is that Australia has been behind in digital for some time and while we are in a challenging economy there’s not going to be extra money and budgets to bolster up a channel like magazines at the moment.”
According to the MPA, the annual retail value of total sales of ABC audited magazines is $843m, representing 161 million copies.