ABCs: FHM loses 50% of circulation in one of biggest magazine sales drops in media history

fhm_coverFHM magazine – once one of the most dominant brands in the dynamic men’s magazines sector – has suffered one of the biggest circulation drops in Australian media history.

The ACP magazine lost half of its circulation in the final six months of last year compared to the same period a year before. Its circulation dropped from 50,154 to just 26,026 according to new figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

In its analysis around the latest set of figures, ACP did not mention FHM at all. A spokesman told Mumbrella there were no changes planned for FHM closing “for the foreseeable future”. The drop for as significant a brand as FHM is virtually unprecedented.

In a statement, Matthew Stanton, the newly appointed CEO of ACP Magazines after the sudden departure of Phil Scott, claimed: “While all publishers are bearing the brunt of subdued consumer spending, many ACP mastheads have gained circulation and/or category share in the latest audit.”

In a further blow to ACP, its new title UFC Australia debuted with a circulation of just 25,021 – just half of what it had promised to the market.

Stanton’s statement added: “ACP is progressively offering new ways for readers to engage with our magazine brands.  We currently offer 36 digital editions of ACP magazines, and the growing number of people interacting with our mastheads on those applications and platforms is not yet reflected in circulation figures.

“Our digital distribution strategy will allow our readers to access our content when and where it suits them, enhancing their engagement and enjoyment of our magazines, attracting new readers and strengthening the brands themselves.”

After FHM, the next biggest fall was for Masterchef Magazine which dropped by a third although the NewsLifeMedia title’s fortunes are dependent on the period when the Ten TV show is on air.

However an indication that the food sector may be under pressure came from fellow News Life Media title Superfood Ideas which dropped 21%.

Other big brands suffering dramatic falls included Readers Digest, down 20%.

Pacific Magazines’ healthy living title Prevention was down by nearly 17%, as was ACP’s Cosmopolitan.

Biggest monthly falls:



There were a handful of winners among the monthly magazine circulations. The relatively low profile Game Informer, from Citrus Media, had the biggest growth. Morrison Media’s Frankie also continued to grow, up 14%.

NewsLifeMedia’s Donna Hay was up 13% to 103,000, while the best performer in the ACP stable was Good Health & medicine, up 10%. Australian Home Beautiful, up 5% was PacMags’ best performer.

The five fastest growing magazines were all owned by independent publishers.

Monthly titles that grew:



  1. AdGrunt
    10 Feb 12
    9:46 am

  2. I can’t be fagged bunging this into a spreadsheet – has the market shrunk and / or shifted? Seems to be mostly the former and likely a large dob of the latter.

    Looks to me like a platform shift from ink-on-paper to digital for most of the titles.

    Would be good for context to see these figures alongside (meaningful) digital platform readership for the same titles.

  3. bospub
    10 Feb 12
    10:18 am

  4. Interesting to see that the Home and Lifestyle sector is growing (with the exception of Vogue and Better Homes). Would like to hear peoples thoughts on this?

  5. Captain New Zealand
    10 Feb 12
    12:34 pm

  6. Would this have something to do with no longer being able to claim the New Zealand copies of FHM as Australian circulation perhaps? I know that us Kiwis made up a sizable chunk of the Ozzie audience a couple of years ago…

  7. Hildegard
    10 Feb 12
    12:49 pm

  8. Never understood the appeals of the lads mags..

    If you want titty and vajayjay, there’s plenty of that all over the net

  9. Grommie
    10 Feb 12
    1:07 pm

  10. How is it that Australia has around 7 or 8 surfing publications through various publishers and yet none of them get a run in these stats ?
    Is it the age old story , if you dont pay you dont get to play?
    Questions the credibility somewhat.
    Love to know the answer.

  11. Paul
    10 Feb 12
    1:38 pm

  12. Grommie, the surf publishers don’t want to pay for the research which does cost money. Roy MOrgan and ABC don’t do this a charity for the publishers. Also from their media ktis, the circulations on those titles aren’t that large – probably comparable to frankie

  13. Deborah
    10 Feb 12
    1:46 pm

  14. What all of the bad news and none of the good such as the increases across the homes titles as well as Grazia, Good Health and OK? Here’s to more balanced reporting rather then constant doom and gloom for magazines.

    10 Feb 12
    2:17 pm

  16. What he said……
    “if you dont pay you dont get to play”

  17. Quentin Long
    10 Feb 12
    2:50 pm

  18. Grommie: Auditing costs $1500 and a days work per annum (well half a day twice) so no reason any title in Australia should be not audited.

    Travel sector is the worst for non auditing.

    Captain NZ: NZ Copies have never been able to be included in these figures, nor the rest of the world. Would be helpful to some sectors – travel being again the obvious sector.

    Barrow put away for the time being. .

  19. KD
    10 Feb 12
    3:18 pm

  20. These magazines can blame the internet, the cost of paper, the solace of the sun in Uranus; however the primary reason they’re losing sales en masse is that they are truly awful – awful covers, awful content, bad writing (just look at the sexless, dull FHM cover featured). Nothing ACP is doing at the moment is even remotely worthwhile; and this from Australia’s “preeminent” magazine publisher. It’s hard to have sympathy if this is the dirge they produce.

  21. Paul Dovas
    10 Feb 12
    3:20 pm

  22. @ Paul, the ABC is a not-for-profit industry association. Quentin is close to the mark on what membership and audit costs on annual basis for most titles.

  23. John Grono
    10 Feb 12
    7:07 pm

  24. Quentin – you beat me to it.

    AdGrunt, these are circulation figures for paid copies – not readership which is done by Morgan. The digital equivalent is ‘paid digital copies’ – stay tuned.

  25. TS
    11 Feb 12
    9:25 am

  26. Interesting to see the titles that have actually increased (very few at 10% or more) Game Informer (Citrus Media) stands out a mile. It is only a title that’s been around a few years so I guess building from a low base helps.
    I am a gamer and joined the EB Games Edge club membership (basically it gives you a card so when you trade games they give you 10-15% more in value) but with this came a FREE subscription to EB Games magazine “Game Informer”.
    How can this be a paid copy if it was sold to me in store as a FREE magazine with the club membership? I didn’t subscribe to it – it is just sent to me as I am a club member – the was no option to opt in or opt out.
    Is there anyway you can see in the circulation audits how many are actually sold and how many are given away as part of club memberships or promos?
    Anyone know?
    If it is included then how can it be a paid copy?

  27. Paul Dovas - ABC
    11 Feb 12
    2:19 pm

  28. @ TS, The ABC reports several additional categories that bring transparency to the headline numbers including Accommodation and Hotel Sales, Airline Sales, Bundled Sales, Event Sales, School Sales and Tertiary Education Subscription Sales.

    Publishers also have the option to report Other Sales which do not qualify for inclusion in the headline number.

    Part of the ABC audit process includes scrutiny of deals like the one you have described. We are also constantly called upon to guide publishers with structuring subscription offers to ensure that they are compliant with ABC Rules and Guidelines.

    Publishers are entitled to promote and structure offers any way they want to. It doesn’t mean however that they will be eligible for inclusion in ABC figures.

  29. It-must-be-true-it's-on-the-internet
    11 Feb 12
    8:36 pm

  30. Given their woeful circulation figures – why is advertising spacing in these magazines so expensive ?

    Look at the ‘Dance’ magazine example. Selling fewer than 4k copies – even if we assume that plenty of people read free copies etc the total readership fewer than 25k.

    In that magazine a 1/4 page ad costs $1.3k.

    Doesn’t that give a CPM of $52 – that’s $52 per thousand impressions!

    At the same time they could have an ad on a local Dance Blog for a tiny fraction of that!

    So why do advertisers see value in this form of advertising?


  31. Logic
    11 Feb 12
    11:57 pm

  32. It-must-be-true-it’s-on-the-internet – shouldn’t compare a full page ad in a magazine with a banner or leaderboard … hardly the same thing.

  33. Craig
    12 Feb 12
    5:29 am

  34. Can someone put a cost per 1/4 page together for all these magazine and then calculate a cost per thousand for them?

    I would suggest this cost (of reach) is far more useful information than circulation in determining which to use as an advertising tool – coupled with demographic information and advertising goals.

  35. Craig
    12 Feb 12
    12:39 pm

  36. Actually, I did what I asked someone to do…

    Shared here:

    Audited circulation rates, including by publisher and category.

    With rates (by smallest promoted ad size online – with the URLs as reference).

    Intriguingly the average rate per thousand charged by sales (not readership) is about $129.

    That’s triple what I’d expect from a general online display rate (noting that magazines sell themselves as niche publications).

    Unfortunately the Audit Bureau does not provide all of its figures in a machine readable format – so I had to do quite a bit of work to extract the numbers in a usable form.

    BTW – there can be no copyright on numbers like this (per the test cases on Yellow pages and TV schedules) – so I don’t think I’ve breached the Audit Bureau’s copyright in any way :)

  37. Mac
    12 Feb 12
    5:31 pm

  38. @Logic (#16) – yes, I appreciate they aren’t the same thing.

    But comparing a 1/4 page ad to a side banner seems reasonable. Are they identical? No – but let’s argue that a 1/4 page ad (with a CPM of $52) is worth 4 times times a side banner.

    That means that a side banner on a dance blog should be worth a CPM of $13 – let’s round it down to $10 to be generous.

    I’m guess I’m just looking for someone to say “The reason that that an ad on a target blog is valued differently as a CPM compared to an ad on a targeted magazine is ####” … rather than just saying “They are different” !

    (Previously ‘It-must-be-true-it’s-on-the-internet’ .. which was log in I used to make a long-forgotten point)

  39. Mac
    13 Feb 12
    1:39 pm

  40. Wow – Craig. That’s a great resource. Thanks.

    (BTW – My post above was written well before your post … the delay due to moderation I assume)

  41. mumbrella
    13 Feb 12
    1:48 pm

  42. A stopry about Craig’s data analysis here:


    Tim – Mumbrella

  43. Paul Dovas- ABC
    13 Feb 12
    1:56 pm

  44. @ Craig, as I have posted in another thread, ABC data is available to members in a variety of formats including pdf, xls and csv. Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘machine readable format’?

  45. Craig
    15 Feb 12
    8:22 am

  46. Hi Paul,

    CSV is good enough if the data is well-structured, though XML is better. Machine-readable generally means able to be automatically read from source and presented and reorganized without human intervention in the data.

    I guess though ‘available to members’ is another factor. I am not a member and could not find the data in your site, so used the Adnews report PDF, spending a few hours to convert it.

  47. Paul Dovas- ABC
    15 Feb 12
    3:23 pm

  48. @ Craig, our membership is quite diverse from advertisers to media buyers, publishers and subscribers, all who have varying needs.

    A lot of work has gone into catering for the different and many needs of our members and we welcome your feedback as we are continuously looking to improve the data feed.

    Happy to talk to you offline about membership.

  49. paul
    26 Feb 12
    1:32 pm

  50. Fact… small publishers cannot afford the cost of data entry and the ABC audit. I know…. that’s why I do not audit our magazine subTropical Gardening, which has been increasing in readership for last few years. We are not privilaged with a huge advertising income stream to warrent the expense. This is why so many small mags are not listed here.

  51. heather craven - ABC
    26 Feb 12
    9:21 pm

  52. @ Paul, I’d love to talk with you about the audit process and help with any misconceptions you may have, regarding the modest cost of being audited, which for most titles like yours is around $1,000 per annum.. The audit process generally relies on the same information sources that you would use yourself maintain to manage the circulation of your publication. Let’s talk offline about this –