Mags: State of the (mag)nation (December 2008 audit)

How did the Aussie glossies fare in the latest ABC circulation round-up? GWAS has the stats on who's selling and who's not...

This audit welcomes niche bi-monthly magazines Frankie (Morrison Media) and RUSSH (Rush Publishing) into the audit fold, with average monthly sales of 29,135 and 23,256 respectively.

With more losses than gains in the women's lifestyle and fashion category, it's an advertisers market in Glossy Land. The stilettos will no doubt be out as editors and ad managers vie for ad dollars in a depressed market. Still, Marie Claire and Shop Til You Drop seem to be most resilient, while, despite losing sales, The Australian Women's Weekly, Cosmo and Cleo remain on the top-20 sellers list.

Predictably, the gossip weeklies are feeling the credit pinch at checkout counters, though with a slight sales rebound, Famous, at $3.5o, is the bargain buy du jour for those needing an escape via the celebrity mag express.

On the homemaker, health and foodie front, Better Homes & Gardens is going gangbusters, while Women's Health and Health Smart are dominating the category devoted to our physical wellbeing and more Aussies seek out recipe inspiration via delicious., Australian Healthy Food Guide, Australian Good Food, Donna Hay and Diabetic Living, which all experienced circulation gains.

Herewith a category circulation breakdown...

Faring well:
Shop Til You Drop (+5%):
new editor Justine Cullen must be ACP's flavour of the month, with her title posting a 5% year-on-year circulation rise, though the mag is making amends for its June 2008 audit slump (it was down 6%), luring back buyers who abandoned it as they cut back their discretionary spending in light of rising petrol prices and Visa debt. The magazine now sells an average of 78,834 copies every month (up from 75,017 year-on-year).

On par:
Marie Claire (0.9%): Clearly, Marie Claire, and its mix of politics, social welfare, compassion and fashion, is a magazine that resonates with women in the current social climate (call it the feminine guilt factor – a fashion magazine purchase can be justified when you are also being informed about worldly matters in such times). It now sells 116,500 copies each month, compared to 115,500 a year ago.

Going down:
CLEO (-16.9%):
CLEO continues to lose readers after shedding 12.3% in the year-on-year June 2008 audit (selling 149,256 copies per month at the time) and falling 16.8% in the December 2008 audit (it's now selling 133,107 copies, placing it 16th amongst the top-20 sellers in the country). The title won't be abandoned by ACP anytime soon, with Clinique on board for the Bachelor of the Year event, and editorial initiatives including a monthly 32-page body book and a new budget section.

The Australian Women's Weekly (-13.8%): While still the biggest selling title in Australia, the Weekly continues to lose sales, after posting a 12.4% year-on-year loss in the June 2008 audit and a 13.8% year-on-year fall in the December 2008 audit. Clearly, responsible mums at the checkout are reluctant to indulge their glossy habits. The mag sold an average of 491,476 monthly copies in the July-December 2008 audit period. Apparently, sales of the Weekly have not dipped below 500,000 since 1941.

Harper's Bazaar (-10.9%): While Harper's was up 5% in the June 2008 year-on-year audit, it's now losing ground, selling 47,691 copies in the year to December 2008, compared to 53,531 copies in the July-December 2007 audit period.

Madison (-7.53%): ACP's answer to Marie Claire isn't faring as well as the Pacific stalwart. After dropping 2.4% in the June 2008 audit (selling 95,166 copies), it's now shifting 90,279 copies each month (compared with 97,623 a year ago). Perhaps this month's revamp will do the trick?

Cosmopolitan (-5.6%): after experiencing an 18.7% sales decline in the June 2008 audit, Cosmopolitan fared better this time around, losing just 5.6% of sales in the year to December. It now sells 165,590 copies each month.

InStyle (-4.76%): Pacific Magazines' InStyle is now selling 61,788 copies each month.

Vogue Australia (-3%): The fashion glossy is now selling 50,252 copies each month, compared to 51,827 a year ago. Not such a dramatic loss considering its luxury branding.

Faring well:
Take 5 (+3.5%): ACP 'reality' weekly (as opposed to 'celebrity weekly') Take 5 sold an average of 260,018 copies each week over the July-December 2008 audit period.

Famous (+1.6%):
Clearly the lower cover price of $3.50 is appealing for women wanting a quick celebrity gossip fix – after dropping 10.8% of sales in the June audit (to 67,135 copies), Pacific Mags' Famous is slowly gaining ground, now selling an average of 74,237 copies each week.

On par:
After a debut circulation figure of 70,000, fashion weekly Grazia is managing to shift 65,000 copies every week.

Who (-0.5%):
Who magazine has defied the downward weekly market trend, with sales of 141,003 (year to December 2008) compared to 141,682 (year to December 2007). Like Marie Claire, the mag's mix of serious and frivolous is appealing in the current market.

Going down:
NW (-16.4%), New Idea (-15%), OK! (-14%) and
Woman's Day (-12.9%): these titles have copped the brunt of cuts to discretionary spending. However, all four titles remain in the nation's list of Top 20 sellers: Woman's Day leading with 405,582 average weekly sales, followed by New Idea (330,000), NW (142,183 sales) and OK! with 120,538.

That's Life (-3.6%):
Pacific's 'reality weekly' is down to selling 309,508 copies each month, but remains the 7th-biggest seller in the country.

Dolly (-2%) and Girlfriend (-9%): Following international trends, both Dolly and Girlfriend lost circulation, selling an average of 119,072 and 110,000 copies per month respectively.


Faring well:
Australian Healthy Food Guide (+24.2%): Readers are passionate about this A5-sized mag, which now sells 33,760 copies each month. A regular fixture at supermarket checkouts and priced at $4.95, it's the impulse health buy you just can't help.

Health Smart
(+19%): This Reader's Digest title has a healthy attitude, reflected in sales increasing to 85,707 per month. Intelligent content without an overt dieting message.

Women's Health (+15.3%): clearly, Australian women like their health magazines with spunk and smarts ("how to lose weight when you have an IQ above 2!"). The title sold 86,500 copies each month from July-December 2008, compared to 75,000 copies a year ago.

Diabetic Living (+10.11%):
It's unfortunate that there's an increasing need for this title, yet it's servicing the market well. Sales are up to 46,577 copies per month this audit.

delicious. (+4.2%): this News Magazines title gained 5,199 sales, with an average monthly circulation of 130,465 copies.

On par:
Australian Good Food: Like Grazia, this BBC/ACP title is posting its debut audit figure, registering 71,250 copies sold each month.

Australian Gourmet Traveller (-1.5%): Lovers of travel and food aren't turning their backs on this title in droves, despite its 'gourmet' tag in a time of frugality (perhaps we are living more vicariously?). It sold 74,100 copies per month, compared to 75,207 a year ago.

Donna Hay (+0.2%): Donna's recipes continue to appeal to 90,408 buyers each month.

Going down:

At only $2.95, this Knock Out Media magazine is hardly a drain on the cash funds, yet it's down to selling a still-impressive 114,810 copies.

Super Food Ideas (-9.9%): News Magazine's "number one selling food magazine", number 8 on the list of Top 20 sellers, shifted 271,298 copies each month for the year to December 2008.

Australian Good Taste
"Australia's leading recipe and cooking magazine" is now selling 154,185 copies each month.

Good Health & Medicine
The ACP title is now selling 60,123 copies each month, while fellow ACP title Slimming & Health (-4.7%) is selling 28,653 copies per month.

Weight Watchers (-5.8%): The Pacific title is shifting 81,356 copies each month, compared to 86,347 a year ago.

Faring well:
Better Homes & Gardens (+8.6%): Flourishing in the current market, this Pacific Magazines stalwart, the third-top seller in the country, continues to impress with monthly sales of 308,000, an increase of around 30,000 readers.

Your Garden (+5.5%):
Pacific stablemate Your Garden sold 56,118 copies per month in the year to December 2008.

On par:
Notebook (-0.4%): This News Magazines title's revamp hasn't put off loyalists - it's selling 72,709 copies each month.

Vogue Living (-1.8%):
The News Magazine title sold an average of 43,185 copies per month in the year to December 2008, just shy of its 43,985 December 2007 audit figure.

Going down:

Burke's Backyard (-21.7%): Poor Don Burke just can't compete with Johanna Griggs of Better Homes and Gardens. Still, the mag is selling 58,926 copies per month.

Real Living (-8.3%):
ACP's answer to interiors mag Domino, Real Living, is now selling 55,383 copies per month (let's hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as Domino!).

Australian Country Style
(-2.2%): sold 53,691 copies each month to December 2008; Vogue Entertaining & Travel (-3.95%) sold 30,215 copies; Belle (-3%), sold 29,149 copies.

Phew! To read GWAS' other glossy circulation reports, click here.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

*Number crunching: According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, total gross paid sales = copies sold through retailers, wholesale distributors, sellers and other regular channels of distribution or sale who pay a wholesale price for the publication; cover price sales; subscription sales; accommodation and airline sales; education sales; and multiple publication sales, minus return copies, contra copies, out-of-date copies, banded copies and modified copies. This gives the Bureau its Total Adjusted Gross Paid Sales figure, which is then divided into Australia, NZ and other countries. A restricted amount of 'Event' sales are also allowed (not more than 1% of the TAGPS figure).


Anonymous said...

Fantastic round up GWAS, Thank you, the hard yards much appreciated.
What about delicious magazine - how did that fare?

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Oops, I have now added Delicious! One was bound to slip through the cracks. Thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

I really believe that there are some mags who simply have their day and they should be put out of their misery. When TV shows run their course they are not re-commissioned, maybe mags should think like that. We always think that mags can change to suit their readers changing tastes and views, but clearly after these results, very few are doing that and touching a nerve.
I think Madison and Cleo both need to either radically re-think their editorial promise or just admit that there are others out there doing it better than them and it's time to say goodnight.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your hard work bringing us that news. Hmmm, don't think magazines are the lovely little things they used to be! Like other businesses in today's hard world, poor old magazines will have to innovate or, ummm, sack loads of people.
PS: Still wondering why advertisers spend soooo much money per page on dying magazines but not so much on the internet, where people actually, umm, connect?

Anonymous said...

^^On that, I belive it's cos readers are much more engaged when reading a magazine than when they are online.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather read Cleo over Cosmo ANY. DAY. Cleo has more substance (though I think Oakes and her writers are taking a little time to grow out of their Girlfriend-esque days, worry not!) and feels more real that Cosmo. I've tried to like Bronwyn McCahon from her time in Dolly til now, but the content all feels uninspired. C'est la vie.

Madison was great the first year or so, but kinda feels like a watered-down version of marieclaire - that said, oooh lookie, free Oroton notebook with each issue this month!

THANK YOU for the round-up Erica! I love how you've gone back to your journalistic roots and cite your sources now =)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Erica. It would be great if you could elaborate on the teen mags though, you only skimmed over this genre and it's probably the most interesting one to analyse since teens are so engaged in online. Why are they continuing to hand over cash for mags, do they still see them as releavnt? And given you have experience after working at GF...

Just a suggestion xx

Anonymous said...

Excellent succinct round up. Thanks and well done Erica.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with Anonymous' comments about Madison needing to rethink it's ediorial promise. Lured by the free notebook offered with this month's issue I parted with $8.95 (and what's with ACP upping their mag prices when they've got a GWP attached?)to find it was just the same old, same old. The most insulting thing I found was the article on beauty through the ages and the case studies...yep, readers can really identify with 4 women who've spent their work lives in the beauty industry with usually free access to the lastest in beauty products and services...what about speaking to real women from a variety of income brackets and experience. Somewhere else on GWAS a reader commented that she's spending her cash more and more on OS mags and I too am doing the same - they're often cheaper (an annual subscription to American Glamour cost me $AUS 55) and are much more inspiring and worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Great roundup, thank you.

I hope Real Living can stick around, despite the falling numbers. It's a great decorating magazine for the "rest of us", with a cleaner and more sophisticated style than Better Homes & Gardens, and I think it'll leave a gap in the market if it goes.