March quarter weekly mag sales numbers are out, in addition to glossy readership results, with publishers and industry body MPA quick to put a positive spin on the data: "A little scary, but mostly upbeat!", to quote How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, is the general industry sentiment.
Unsurprisingly, sales of weekly gossip magazines are down across the board year-on-year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, with Pacific Magazines' Famous the only glossip to post a circulation increase, with a rise of 7,000 copies to an average of 77,062 sales each week. While a reduced cover price (Famous dropped its asking price from $4.50 to $3.50 in October 2008) is likely to have contributed to the gain, Pacific CEO Nick Chan tells The Australian: "That would be far too simplistic. That's one factor (out of) many."
Pacific says it has reported its highest ever share of the women’s weekly category with its portfolio of Famous, New Idea, That’s Life! and Who combining to deliver a 48.4% share of all women’s weeklies sold. Meanwhile, the MPA (chaired by Chan) reports that ABC net paid sales for the 16 weekly audited magazines are up 0.1% period-on-period to 2.47 million copies (total year-on-year sales fell 5.1% despite Grazia entering the fold).
Meanwhile, ACP spin doctors say the publishing house's strong leadership position continues with an "outstanding circulation audit of its weekly titles for the period January – March 2009 and 59% of weekly consumer magazines sold in Australia an ACP Magazines title". ACP group publishing and sales director (women’ s lifestyle) Lynette Phillips says, “It’s really encouraging, particularly when you consider not only the immense competition in the category but also the pressures of the current economic climate.”
The biggest sales losses at the checkout and newsstand were experienced by NW (down 15.2% to 146,320 weekly sales), OK! (down 15.1% to 120,672), Woman's Day (down 13.6% to 406,005) and New Idea (down 13.4% to 330,116). Proving more resilient were TV Week (down 6.5% to 230,020), Who (down 4.9% to 138,512), That's Life (down 1.9% to 309,076) and Take 5 (down 1.5% to 255,261). Year-on-year sales data isn't yet available for Grazia, which has reported average weekly sales of 65,178.
On the readership front, total consumer mag numbers are down 3.4% year-on-year, a "relatively solid" performance, according to MPA/Pacific's Chan, who told AdNews: "If you look at these current results against the performance of magazines over a 10-year period, then magazines are still delivering gross readerships better than the levels seen eight to nine years ago."
In the weekly market, readership losses were experienced across the spectrum, with NW down 26.5% to 402,000 readers, Famous down 17.1% despite its circulation increase, Woman's Day shedding 10% to register 2.2 million readers, Who down 8.5% to 712,000, New Idea down 7.9% to 1.8 million and OK! (down 2.2% to 399,000).
Monthly glossies tell a similar tale, though News Magazines' Vogue Australia and Pacific's Women's Health both posted readership gains, rising 1.1% to 351,000 and an impressive 13.5% to 364,000 readers respectively.
Harper's Bazaar is down 27.1% to 188,000 readers; Cleo lost 15.7% of readers (falling from 517,000 to 435,000); Cosmopolitan lost 14.6% (694,000 to 593,000 – its lowest readership result since 1980, reports The Australian) and The Australian Women's Weekly lost 12.4%, to register 2.217 million readers.
Madison lost 11.1% (252,000 to 224,000); InStyle lost 6% (249,000 to 234,000); Shop Til You Drop shed 4% (200,000 to 192,000); and Marie Claire lost a nominal 1.6% (503,000 to 495,000 monthly readers), proving its stalwart publishing position and giving advertisers a reason to stay on board. News Mags noted the worst effected publisher was ACP with its readership falling by 6.5% year-on-year.
On the teen publishing scene, ACP's Dolly (down 9.5% to 335,000) lost the most readers, but retained its Teen Queen title, while Girlfriend (down 0.3% to 318,000) posted a small decline, further narrowing the gap between the two titles.
"It looks really bad based on year-on-year numbers," Chan, who is pressing ahead with the launch of Prevention later this year, tells The Australian. "It isn't our proudest moment. But in what has been a really volatile, nervous, fragile market, it's still pretty solid. And from the circulation side, there's a little bit of steadying there."
See... a little scary, but, you know, upbeat! Is this the glossy equivalent to denying you use Botox?
Girl With a Satchel