|Michelle Williams, UK ELLE, December edition|
ELLE magazine is to have an Aussie edition. Ten years since Pacific Magazines folded the original ELLE Australia (after exchanging hands from Hachette Filipacchi), the title is being given a new lease on life by ACP Magazines in partnership with Hearst International, which will launch a local edition in the autumn of 2012.
The move is defiant of shrinking print circulations and suggests that there is a lot of life left in strong mastheads – across web, tablet and mobile platforms in addition to print, that is.
"ELLE is a magazine brand that is right for our times - for readers and advertisers," said ACP Magazines managing director Phil Scott.
"It uniquely covers women’s fashion, beauty, health, lifestyle and entertainment from an inspirational and achievable perspective. Its mixed and balanced content is accessible from both a global and local perspective. In addition to the printed magazine, the Elle brand will be launched across multiple platforms inclusive of events, website, applications and mobile."
There is no doubt that there is strength in the ELLE brand – the Australian edition will be the 44th ELLE title worldwide. The UK edition's circulation grew 0.8% to 197,136 in the first six months of 2011 (paid-for sales were 147,000 up 0.2%). However, after being officially acquired by Hearst (publisher of Harper's BAZAAR and marie claire in America), the American edition's single-copy and subscription sales were down 9 per cent in the first half of 2011.
In the UK, ASOS, which recently appointed former UK ELLE editor Melissa Dick to the editorial director post, has the third-highest ranked print circulation, following Glamour, which remains the number one consumer women's title. Free titles such as ASOS' magazine and Shortlist Media's Stylist compete with the fashion glossies and women's monthlies, just as the likes of newspaper inserts do in Australia, though many advertisers still like to be associated with "prestige glossies".
ELLE Australia will join ACP fashion stablemates Harper's BAZAAR, Madison and SHOP Til You Drop in competing for female readers and advertising dollars. The women's fashion category – which also includes Pacific Magazines' marie claire (417,000 readers) and In Style (233,000), and NewsLife Media's Vogue Australia (373,000) – experienced a -4.1 per cent readership reduction in the 12 months to September 2011.
This did not include SHOP Til You Drop (183,000), which features in the "women's lifestyle" category with Cleo (393,000), Cosmopolitan (527,000) and Women's Health (422,000), which experienced a 2.9 per cent dip, nor Frankie, which has cultivated a healthy circulation and readership (218,000). Additionally, ACP's fashion weekly Grazia bills itself as a high-end-meets-high-street glossy title (not unlike a weekly version of ELLE) and has 170,000 weekly readers.
Clearly, we are well catered for when it comes to fashion magazines – and that's not to mention the copious blogs. Magazine publishers have thus far been reclusive when it comes to promoting their digital readerships, insofar as trade media goes, save for a glimpse at how they're rating via a recent survey by Experian Hitwise, which found The Australian Women's Weekly was the top-performing magazine masthead online for the month of August while Grazia and Notebook (now defunct) were placed amongst the top-30 rating print mastheads online.
Currently there is talk of combining newspaper print and online readership metrics to give one "masthead readership" figure, which could translate to glossies, too. Pacific Magazines CEO Nick Chan, also head of Magazine Publishers of Australia, told mUmBRELLA Question Time:
"We’re incredibly defensive when we talk. We say we’re not quite dead, we’ve still got a pulse. We do need to actually be really proud of our magazines in the printed form, the circulations and what we do with that. We have this incredible relationship. We have the hearts and the minds of our consumers. We need to bring it to the fore and show that it works."
It's been 10 years since Australian women have known ELLE on a personal level, save for access to her international editions and their websites. The questions must be asked: can a relatively small Australian population support another fashion glossy in an increasingly fragmented market? Will there be too much readership cross-over for big brands to divest their funds across all the fashion titles (i.e. diehard fashion followers are likely to buy ELLE in addition to the other titles)? Can ACP's other fashion glossies be sustained beneath the burden of a big brand like ELLE? Obviously ACP has these answers: it would not be launching a new title if it did not. Surely not.
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Girl With a Satchel