It’s been a rip-roaring rollercoaster ride for magazines this year. A host of executive-level management overhauls, editorial shake-ups, the closure of two major titles and the launch of a women’s monthly, topped off by the sale of Australia’s most iconic publishing house, have all made 2012 a watershed year by anyone’s standards.
The biggest news was surely ACP Magazines’ sale to German publishing house, Bauer, and its subsequent rebranding as Bauer Media. ACP, which was founded as Australian Consolidated Press in 1936 by Frank Packer, merged with the Nine Network in 1994 and was subsequently offloaded to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in 2007. Its earnings almost halved in the proceeding four years, prompting CVC’s search for a buyer.
Bauer snapped up the business in September for $500m, giving it rein over 48 titles including market-leaders The Australian Women’s Weekly, Cleo and Cosmopolitan. The move was met with praise across the industry, with legendary Women’s Weekly editor Ita Buttrose and former Cleo editor Mia Freedman publicly voicing their support for the deal.
One day after the sale announcement, ACP launched the long awaited Women’s Fitness magazine – anticipated to be the first real competitor to Pacific Magazines’ Women’s Health.
In October the publisher also has snared a deal to publish all of Weight Watchers’ print assets after the brand parted ways with Pacific Magazines. The publisher won out in a competitive pitch against rivals NewsLifeMedia and incumbent Pacific Magazines.
But 2012 also saw some major titles cut. ACP brought the axe down on blokes title FHM in March after its sales dropped almost 50% in the last six months of 2011, while the same publisher’s much-anticipated launch of Elle was shelved until further notice.
NewsLifeMedia also scrapped its monthly MasterChef Magazine, following a circulation decline of nearly 40% year-on-year in the first half. The title had been running for just over two years.
When it came to the industry’s leadership, things went into flux. Matt Stanton took over from Phil Scott as CEO of ACP Magazines in January, followed by the resignation of NewsLifeMedia CEO Sandra Hook who was promptly replaced with XYZ Networks’ GM of Lifestyle channels, Nicole Sheffield. The former TV dynamo flew into spring-clean mode, reviewing personnel and procedures across the business.
As Sheffield put her stamp on the company her first casualty was Vogue editor-in-chief of 13 years, Kirstie Clements. Clements was sacked in mid-May in favour of ACP’s Harper’s Bazaar editor Edwina McCann, believed to have a fresher, younger approach to content and technology. Following McCann’s exit, ACP promoted Grazia editor Kellie Hush to take the reins at Harpers.
On the sales side, NewsLifeMedia commercial director Zara Curtis quit her post in June to take up the role of general manager at FremantleMedia’s branded content division, Spring. Three months later, director of sales at ACP, Louise Barrett, left the publisher for a similar role in TV at the Ten Network. National sales manager Leigh Monti was promoted to Barrett’s post at ACP, while SheSpot’s Miffy Coady replaced Curtis at NewsLifeMedia.
Meanwhile over at the industry body for magazine publishers – Magazine Publishers of Australia (MPA) – existing chairman, CEO of Pacific Magazines Nick Chan, handed the top job over to Matt Stanton, CEO of ACP. MPA also appointed former CEO of Freeview, Robin Parkes, as executive director in September, signalling the magazine industry’s zealous new commitment to self promotion.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations revealed significant positive movement in the sales of home and lifestyle titles in the year’s first half, as well as year-on-year circulation increases for many of the tween titles, some high fashion rags and numerous special interest titles. Nevertheless, the market dropped an overall 4.2% in the six months to June, spearheaded by the decline of MasterChef Magazine.
Amidst the mounting importance of digital in the survival of magazine publishing, ACP, Pacific Magazines and NewsLifeMedia teamed with Google Play in October to launch titles in high definition digital for Android. This move allows readers to purchase online versions of magazines from all major publishers via Google Play’s Magazines App for Android.