Mags: Inaugural AMA Magazine of the Year Award winners

Julia Zaetta and her Better Homes and Gardens team have received a lovely pre-Christmas gift: the Pacific Magazines' publishing behemoth has taken out the inaugural Australian Magazine Awards (AMA) Magazine of the Year Award, owing to its full-hearted embrace of the multi-platform glossy branding approach.

With the winners announced this morning, the Awards, hosted by industry rag Ad News (Yaffa Publishing), are a supplement for the now-defunct Magazine Publishers of Australia (MPA) awards. An impressive panel of independent judges, including Fusion Strategy's Steve Allen and Mediacom's Nick Keenan, shortlisted 67 finalists, from which 15 category winners were selected.

Unlike the MPA Awards, the AMAs did not call for cumbersome entries from publishers, rather the onus was on the panel to select winners from across the Australian magazine spectrum – the only prerequisites being that the titles be ABC audited, with Roy Morgan readership figures. Judging criteria included sales figures, advertising volume, covers, content, layout and design.

Better Homes and Gardens stood out from the competition – including fellow Magazine of the Year finalists and winners of their respective Women's Lifestyle and Food and Entertainment categories Shop Til You Drop and Delicious – with its June 2009 audit 10.4% year-on-year circulation increase (sales of 370,000 per month make it the third-best selling title in Australia). The magazine also posted a 2.3% readership increase and 19% year-on-year increase in advertising volume (Nielsen AdEx).

"Arguably the most successful multimedia brand in the country, Better Homes and Gardens has enviable reach via its TV program on the Seven Network, its website through Yahoo!7 and its radio program," says the AMA. "With advertisers increasingly seeking cross-platform opportunities, Better Homes and Gardens is well positioned to continue its success in the future."

In a category that "relies heavily on strong covers to tempt readers", News Magazines' Delicious stood out in the Food and Entertainment category for its "stellar food photography with strong layout and design" as well as its canny use of celebrity foodies Jamie Oliver and Matt Preston "in a year that saw interest in cooking intensify, thanks partly to the success of TV programs such as MasterChef."

Pacific Magazines' Women's Health won the Health and Family category award for its "smooth transition between the lifestyle and health categories and its consistently strong cover design and editorial content" in addition to healthy circulation data.

After a tumultuous year, which saw a controversial change of editor, The Australian Women's Weekly, now in its 75th year in print, won the Mass Women's category title, beating New Idea, Take 5, That's Life and Woman's Day. Despite experiencing a circulation decline (-7% year-on-year as at June), the nation's number one selling glossy still "boasts the most powerful front cover in its category" and a "breadth of content and value for money".

Marie Claire won the Woman's Fashion award for its "strong balance of editorial and well-shot fashion features, delivered with consistency", as well as a half-yearly circulation increase and use of cutting-edge content delivery technology, despite a 10.6% fall in advertising volume (the glossy still boasts more ads than the other finalists in the category, including InStyle, Madison and Vogue).

"Consistency and clarity of focus" got ACP's Shop Til You Drop over the Women's Lifestyle category line in first place. The judges applauded the title's "clear point of difference and focus on delivering exactly what it promises readers." Mid-year circulation growth of 7.7% also stood Shop apart in a category including Cosmopolitan and OK!, which made only nominal gains. Fellow finalist Who lost sales, while the judges felt Famous' record 20% jump was "assisted by a sizeable drop in cover price."

However, this week's rather fortuitous back-from-the-brink assessment of Famous on GWAS has been matched by the magazine's 'U Turn of the Year' AMA award. "In 2008 Pacific Magazines was faced with plummeting circulation for Famous," says the AMA. "Gereurd Roberts was appointed as editor-in-chief in May 2008, charged with reinvigorating the magazine, and national advertising manager Laura Kleiman came on board in October. Just over 12 months ago, Famous updated and refreshed its editorial and cut its cover price by $1 to $3.50, which has helped drive an overall increase in sales for the celebrity weekly magazine market."

The BBC/ACP collaborative effort Top Gear, which was credited with "raising the bar in the motoring category", took out the Launch of the Year award, beating out Grazia and Good Food. Dolly was awarded the Youth/Kids top gong for being "a good all round package with consistently strong front covers", as well as a healthy June 2009 circulation gain of 4.1%. "Dolly is not just a print product," according to the AMA's assessment. "ACP Magazines has created a strong multimedia brand in Dolly over the past year, creating added value for advertisers. It delivers up-to-date editorial, video content and a What's On guide for readers of its website, which is housed under the Ninemsn portal." The judges also made note of Dolly's interactive advertorial 'Wish List' and airbrush-free June issue /Heart Your Body campaign.

In the Newspaper Inserted Magazine category, The Age (Melbourne) Magazine came out on top, standing apart from the competition for its "strong imagery and flair for features" and "a balanced package of trends, food, people, shopping, fashion and entertainment", in addition to an impressive 9.9% year-on-year rise in readership in the June Roy Morgan survey.

See the full list of winners at Ad News today. Congratulations to all of them on a job well done in a tough year.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


frangipani princess said...

Dolly definitely deserved to win the youth/kids award, it is just such an all-round epic package.
And famous definitely has done the U turn of the year, it has improved so much lately.
Well done to all those magazines, as you said, it's certainly been a tough year in mag-land.

Anonymous said...

Better Homes & Gardens also raises the question as to how much a magazine needs additional mediums to support it (ie a TV show and radio). Which in turn does raise questions over the future of magazines as a medium.

sweetmeat Natalie said...

I still think it's a bit weird that marie claire, which is maybe one quarter fashion, won fashion magazine of the year, and shop til you drop, which is nearly all fashion, won women's lifestyle mag of the year. Can someone explain to me how the categories work?