ACP needed a miracle. It arrived

paul merrill headshotACP Magazines’ gives the company a much brighter future than many expected, argues former ACP editor Paul Merrill.

The TV news reports last night about the sale of ACP Magazines to the German publisher, Bauer were funereal in tone. That potent pillar of Australian greatness, the Women’s Weekly was now the German Australian Women’s Weekly. Yet another Aussie icon had fallen into the evil clutches of a foreign behemoth.

And we can’t trust foreigners, can we?

The actual facts of this deal tell a very different, and very positive, story. I believe this is a miraculous outcome for ACP and one that bodes extremely well for its titles.

For a start the reported price of $500m is astonishing in the middle of a global meltdown, with collapsing ad markets and a ludicrously high Aussie dollar. Five hundred million for an industry that has been declining for years (in nearly all international markets, not just here), has been criminally slow in investing in its own future and faces a potentially cataclysmic battle to remain relevant in a digital world.

As part of the Nine Entertainment Co, ACP had a hard time. Badly in hock to a private equity company who faced losing about $2 billion on the company James Packer had sold them just five years ago, the past few years have been all about stripping out costs, short-termism, closing and selling off loss making or niche titles and leveraging its relationship with Nine to make it as appealing as possible to foreign investors.

It wasn’t a good time to be in any magazines company as ads gravitated online, circulations declined, editorial and ad teams shrunk and budgets were pared back.

All of which makes ACP sale a surprise, and a not inconsiderable triumph that is hopefully good news for the rest of the industry. For the first time in a long while, someone has actually shown some confidence in magazines.

And that someone is a slightly eccentric company that has always been passionate about the titles it publishes. It’s family run so has no shady venture capitalists to placate.

If ACP benefited from being aligned to Nine, just think what advantages it can gain from synergies in all of Bauer’s international markets. More than anything, Bauer has always put its money where its mouth is. It has a proven track record of investing in its products and has a more long-term outlook than many of its rivals. It also takes risks – and copes with failed launches like the weeklies Enjoy and Cut in the UK.

And, while we’re on the subject, the other winner is Nine, already resurgent in the ratings and now cut partially free from a crippling debt and more able than ever to push hard to reclaim its place as Number One. A gauntlet has certainly been thrown down to Channel Seven and Pacific Magazines. Will the latter be able to compete if a more cashed up ACP enters launch mode?

So enough with the hand wringing about selling off the family silver. For a start, CVC Asia Pacific is part of an international investment capital company that started in the UK and has fingers in pies throughout four continents, so the AWW hasn’t been exactly true blue since 2007.

The sale probably won’t make much difference to ACP operationally in the short term – and revenues will remain a worry – but it can now do something few predicted: look to the future with a lot more relish.

  • Polar bear ate my headPaul Merrill was founding editor of Zoo Weekly and editor-in-chief of a number of ACP titles. His book, A Polar Bear Ate My Head is on sale now. Buy it online via this link

Comments


  1. Notmyrealname
    5 Sep 12
    10:56 am

  2. I’d love to be in the room when they realise that AWW is, in fact, monthly.

  3. Georgia Rickard
    5 Sep 12
    11:01 am

  4. Great post, Paul.

  5. Me
    5 Sep 12
    11:13 am

  6. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has them.

  7. Dwayne
    5 Sep 12
    12:51 pm

  8. Paul, a good take on the issue. However, is there a bigger problem, that ACP’s stable of mags are all a bit dated and daggy? I dare say it – no one cares? Any business knows you’ve got to attract new customers to survive and I can’t really see one magazine they’ve got that would excite a new magazine buyer (over something the net didn’t already offer.) Same shit, different owner, really.

  9. John Grono
    5 Sep 12
    1:08 pm

  10. Good point ‘Notmy realname’. I doubt they would have bothered checking before shelling out half a billion dollars. Quick, email them before it’s too late!

  11. Me
    5 Sep 12
    1:27 pm

  12. @Dwayne must make up the entire market.. mate you obviously have no idea.

    Move on son.

  13. Anonymous
    5 Sep 12
    2:11 pm

  14. @Dwayne, have a loot at Bauer’s current mags. ACP’s will make them look very good ideed.

  15. Kylie's mum
    5 Sep 12
    2:14 pm

  16. Hopefully they’ll start employing real journalists on the weekly mags now and get some genuine exclusives instead of making everything up!

  17. Dwayne
    5 Sep 12
    2:14 pm

  18. @ Me… Again, but this time in some basic form of readable English….

  19. keishu
    5 Sep 12
    2:41 pm

  20. they could hardly call it ‘Australian Women’s Monthly’ – awkward…

  21. Good moron
    5 Sep 12
    3:07 pm

  22. I can’t see a crucial point: do magazine websites like Cleo remain as part of NineMSN or not?

    There are traffic implications for both the magazine sites and NineMSN.

  23. Me
    5 Sep 12
    3:27 pm

  24. Nine have nothing to do with ACP anymore.. no more hosting.

    Its now ACP / ACP Digital.

    Much better seeing as Nine focuses on online and television…

  25. Shamma
    5 Sep 12
    3:34 pm

  26. Good moron – have to assume Bauer would take these in house. Why would their mag brand assets they have paid $500m for remain within a JV with nine and microsoft?

    I’d say it makes sense for the one company to sell all of it – Bauer. The online guys don’t generally nail the premium angle of magazines in their quant heavy big number sell.

  27. God
    5 Sep 12
    3:46 pm

  28. Ninemsn has nothing to do with ACP anymore. They sold all the mags back before the Bauer sale. It a good thing considering they’re more focused on TV and online…

  29. God
    5 Sep 12
    4:04 pm

  30. @ keishu

    Its actually Australian Women’s Weekly – awkward…

  31. Good moron
    5 Sep 12
    4:42 pm

  32. Thanks @ Shamma and @Me

    Did NineMSN provide traffic to the mag sites or derive traffic from them? On balance.

  33. Shamma
    5 Sep 12
    5:12 pm

  34. that is a good q good moron … i’d say derive as such a large chunk to those brands would come via search

    hurts ninemsn as without those brands ninemsn becomes very beige.

  35. Jack B. Nimble
    5 Sep 12
    6:26 pm

  36. Many of the mags provide their content to Ninemsn, either ACP/Bauer will have signed a deal to keep that in place or they will just throw in the towel on chasing online at all. Didn’t Microsoft pull out of Ninemsn anyway, some time back?

    I’d agree with the take that this is a win-win for the magazines (who will once again be run by somebody with ink in their veins rather than numbers on their spreadsheets) and ACP. One wonders if Phil Scott will re-emerge as the head for Bauer AU?

    However, Bauer will need to see a solid return on its $50m investment, and I think that’s going to mean axing several mags which are under-performing and/or show no signs of growth potential.

    Technology is one, as tech mags have suffered continual decline for almost the past decade, ACP has #1 and #2 in the mix but can Bauer really afford two mags when both are on the downward slope?

    And fashion/lifestyle has got to get the ruler run over it. Any bets as to how many more issues we’ll see of Grazia?

  37. Shamma
    5 Sep 12
    8:37 pm

  38. it’s still a JV- http://mi9.com.au/aboutus.aspx

  39. Kylie's mum
    6 Sep 12
    1:09 pm

  40. I agree Jack B Nimble, although i’s a shame about Grazia as the UK version is so much better, as their sales prove.

    If the Bauer team makes it more like it was originally meant to be – a weekly Harpers/Vogue crossed with the features of Marie Claire and Madison – and run real celebrity exclusives from trusted sources – instead of it looking like just another trashy celeb mag, it should pick up.

  41. Good moron
    7 Sep 12
    9:39 am

  42. I heard from someone at MI9 yesterday that the sites are staying as part of NineMSN and being sold by MI9 on a rev share.

  43. Jo
    10 Sep 12
    9:29 am

  44. The whole print industry is dying and won’t exist in two years time..

    ACP will close all print shops up and digital will provale.

    Digital content writers are much more intelligent then print anyway…

  45. John Grono
    10 Sep 12
    10:13 am

  46. Jo, would you fancy a wager on that? Let’s say the bet is that “There is no printed media by the start of 2015″. By print we mean newspapers or magazines and we’ve extended the two years tto give you a little leeway.

    How much money are you willing to put behind your mouth?

    And I sincerely hope that digital writers are more intelligent that their readers and their spelling and use of the comparative word ‘than’ instead of the temporal word ‘then.

    Name your opening wager Jo.

  47. Shamma
    10 Sep 12
    10:31 am

  48. That is a good result for MI9 … they can cookie the users and sell them on their own network for no rev share. Means MI9 can still claim to have access to that audience. If Bauer are smart they’ll ask for a rev share on the retargeting.

  49. Kylie's Mum
    10 Sep 12
    11:03 am

  50. Jo, you’re getting journalists and writers mixed up.

    Journalists are more talented than writers full-stop. They have a nose for a story, can sniff out the facts, most have legal training to know what can and can’t be reported, who to go to for a quote, how to make it happen. They break stories.

    Writers basically just write, and most online ones just regurgitate what journalists/reporters have had the intelligence to see, gather and break.

    If print dies out, make no mistake, a lot of these journalists will move to online – and get paid more than their writer counterparts because they are worth more experience-wise.

  51. Giv
    10 Sep 12
    2:27 pm

  52. Print is dead

  53. Johannes Gutenberg
    10 Sep 12
    5:16 pm

  54. Giv, your comment carries as much truth as a comment like “online is dead”. Neither are or will be true in my lifetime. Remember that cinema died when TV started. So did radio. Except that they didn’t. So, just grow up and get over it. Yes there are, and will continue to be consumption shifts. But the biggest challenge to any medium’s survival is the rush to solely ad-supported online revenue streams which simply does not generate enough to continue producing the quality content that the consumer is demanding. So, lemming-like … consumption is rushing over a cliff killing itself. (Yeah, I know … they don’t really do that but you get my drift).

  55. LW
    10 Sep 12
    8:20 pm

  56. Jo, content is content, whatever platform it is on. And you are obviously far more intelligent than myself, as I would have said ‘prevail’, rather than this exciting new word ‘provale’ that us old-timers haven’t heard of. (Sorry everyone, I know spelling-related digs at other posters are boring for you all, but it really does make me all warm inside…)

  57. Giv
    11 Sep 12
    3:53 pm

  58. @Johannes Gutenberg

    Someone got made redundant after the print industry died.

  59. Liam
    11 Sep 12
    3:54 pm

  60. Agreed. Print is dead and will fade in the next year..

  61. John Grono
    11 Sep 12
    10:36 pm

  62. So do any of these lemmings want to take up my wager? Didn’t think so as talk is cheap.