Bauer Media Australia has announced the closure of eight of its brands, blaming the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
Affected titles include Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, InStyle, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Good Health, NW and OK!.
Bauer temporarily paused these publications in May due to the significant impact of travel restrictions on transit-reliant titles such as NW and OK!, and declining advertising revenue to support Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, and InStyle, as well as Men’s and Women’s Health and Good Health. Consequently, a number of staff across these titles were stood down due to a stoppage of work.
Brendon Hill, Bauer Media ANZ CEO, said: “It has been a challenging time for Bauer and our team with exciting highs and devastating lows in recent months. We were delighted to acquire Pacific Magazines in May and were thrilled to recently announce a new future under Mercury Capital.
“However, these positive changes have taken place amidst an unexpected, uncertain and unrelenting economic downturn. No one could have anticipated the swift, widespread and ongoing impact of the pandemic on our business and industry.”
Recent Nielsen AdQuest (AQX) data revealed the economic impact of a full month of COVID-19 lockdowns with a 38.8 per cent MOM drop in media advertising expenditure in April equating to a $303m decrease in spend. June recorded a 32.7 per cent drop when comparing the same month in 2019.
“We, like many other media companies, have deeply felt the impact of COVID-19. The reinstatement of these titles and teams was always dependent on the advertising market bouncing back and the return of domestic and international travel. Despite promising signs from advertisers in recent weeks, this has not outweighed the medium-term outlook for these titles.
“Additionally, with a second lockdown in Victoria and minimal travel, it is not feasible to sufficiently distribute NW and OK! without transit channels. The financial impact of these factors and the ongoing economic uncertainty makes the return and sustainability of these titles no longer viable. We have been forced to reset and future-proof the business like all of the media industry has.”
As part of the closures, Bauer will lose valued editorial, sales and production staff. Some of the staff affected by the paused titles were offered temporary work during the period, and Bauer will hold further conversations with the affected teams with the aim to find alternative employment across the business.
“The real and significant loss is that of our exceptionally talented and loyal colleagues as part of these closures. We have been optimistic about bringing our team back, however, the market has only seen further decline since stand-downs were implemented in May. We wanted to give direction and clarity to our staff as early as possible, rather than create further uncertainty with irregular publishing schedules. This is a devastating blow to those who are directly affected, the entire Bauer team and the industry as a whole. I would like to acknowledge and thank the hard-working staff across these titles for their commitment and significant contribution to these brands.”
Bauer will work through the appropriate consultation process with impacted staff.
On Friday Hill announced the return of a Bauer operation in New Zealand after COVID-related restrictions have eased. Government-led distribution restrictions meant that Bauer New Zealand was not able to operate during the lockdown period with the office ceasing in April.
“The return of a New Zealand operation is a green shoot for our staff, brands and readers. The New Zealand market is very different to Australia at this point in time with people back in the office, a more promising advertising market and many Kiwis enjoying domestic travel. The easing of restrictions has meant we have been able to bring back around 40 editorial and advertising staff and much-loved titles such as Woman’s Day, New Zealand Women’s Weekly, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Kia Ora, Your Home & Garden and The Listener which is fantastic. As conditions improve, we hope to continue to expand operations there.”
The recent sale of Bauer Media Australia to Mercury Capital received regulatory approvals and was completed on Wednesday 15 July. Mercury will work closely with the Bauer executive team to form a new strategy for the business and identify key areas for investment and growth.
Bauer Media Australia will launch its new brand and strategy in the coming months.
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