ABCs: Sensationalist celebrity editors are ‘on crack’ says analyst, as circulations plummet

Woman's Day

A leading media analyst has said celebrity magazines are not realising that once successful strategies based on sensationalism are now driving readers away, claiming they “seem to be on crack cocaine”.

Steve Allen, principal of Fusion Strategy, made the pronouncements as the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures showed all celebrity magazines with declining circulations.

However his claims were dismissed by Pacific Magazines boss Peter Zavecz who instead said he believed the weekly mag market was too crowded.

Bauer Media’s flagship title Woman’s Day saw its circulation drop under 300,000 for the first time, falling 10.10 per cent in the July to September period when compared to the same period last year – from 320,398 copies a week to 288,186.

Despite an 8.5 per cent rise the magazine’s digital subs failed to make a dent in the print decline, moving from 2,255 to 2,447.

Steve Allen: Celebrity titles 'seem to be on crack cocaine'

Steve Allen: Celebrity titles ‘seem to be on crack cocaine’

Bauer Media CEO David Goodchild didn’t comment on Woman’s Day drop below the 300,000 mark for the first time, focusing instead on the magazine remaining the leader in the weekly titles.

“Bauer Media remains the home to Australia’s highest selling weekly magazine, Woman’s Day with our leadership over the weekly magazine market remaining unchanged. Our weekly titles alone sell more than one copy every second of every day to Australian Women,” he said in a statement.

However, for Fusion Media’s Allen  it was not “a good audit” for weekly magazines.   “The most disturbing thing is that every single weekly magazine has dropped, Yours not so much, but the two biggest have dropped the most. That’s a worry,” he told Mumbrella.

He added: “The celebrity titles, or the titles that cover celebrities, seem to be on crack cocaine – they don’t seem to understand what’s driving circulation down. In days gone by it used to be a successful formula but it doesn’t make it successful today.

“It seems the more outrageous the cover lines or stories are, the more it harms circulation.” However this idea was firmly rejected by Pacific Magazines boss Peter Zavecz.

“It’s not that it’s driving it away, they’re accessing it in other ways. They’ve never had more of an appetite for it, not only in magazines. People know they can access all this content online as well, it’s that rise of social media,” he told Mumbrella. 

Despite this view, Pacific Magazines’ women’s mag New Idea saw its circulation drop, with the magazine only shifting 250,111 copies a week during the July to September period compared to 277,014 in the same period last year.

Digital subscriptions to the title also dropped by 12.4 per cent. Bauer’s glossy celebrity title OK! posted the greatest declines, with the title’s sales sliding from 72,024 copies a week to 59,022 – a decline of 18.10 per cent.

Rival celebrity title Who, owned by Pacific Magazines, posted a decline of 6.6 per cent which saw the magazine’s weekly sales drop below 100,000. The magazine sold 96,207 in the July to September period, down from 102,996 in the same period in 2014.

Sticking with the celebrity titles, Bauer’s celebrity and gossip magazine NW experienced the second-greatest declines, posting a slide of 17.70 per cent.

In the July to September period the magazine shifted 62,557 copies a week, down from 76,022 in the same period last year. It also posted a 9 per cent decline in its digital subscriptions.

The writing may be on the wall for Pacific Magazines’ Famous, which saw its circulation drop by 16.90 per cent but managed to remain just over the psychologically important 50,000 mark, shifting 50,033 copies a week compared to the 60,211 sold in July to September 2014.

However Pac Mags’ Zavecz said the title was popular amongst advertisers, citing a big cosmetic brand as an example: “They said Famous was working better and more responsive than any other of his magazines and he does use the glossy monthlies as well.”

Yours magazineReal life magazine That’s Life, owned by Pacific Magazines, saw its circulation slide by 9.80 per cent, selling 175,152 copies a week but still remained ahead of competitor Take 5. The Bauer-owned title saw its circulation shed 5.70 per cent, with sales sitting at 155,723 copies a week.

TV Week, also owned by Bauer Media, posted a circulation decline of 9 per cent, down from 145,076 to 132,086.

Bauer Media’s Yours, which launched in February last year and reported its first year-on-year numbers in the last circulation figures released in August, had the smallest decline of the weekly magazines.

The magazine, which is targeted at women in their 50s, saw its sales slide by 1.90 per cent and now sells 60,072 copies a week compared to 61,250 for the same period last year.

On why Yours has had the smallest circulation declines Fusion Media’s Allen said: “Look at its cover lines and what’s within the covers – it doesn’t go for sensationalism. It goes for real stories and that’s why it’s not plummeting in circulation.”

Zavec: too many weekly magazines

Zavec: too many weekly magazines

For Pac Mags’ Zavecz the decline comes down to the market being overcrowded.

“There’s too many of them simple. When I was a young kid there were three weekly magazines and right now there are nine magazines.”

Zavecz did say there could be consolidation within the space but emphasised that Pacific Magazines doesn’t look individually at a magazine but rather looks at the magazine brand in totality.

“We’ve got to be responsive and we’ve got to be up-to-date and that will obviously extend our brand but our print version might not have as many print sales because of that but the brand will be bigger,” he said.

This refocus has seen the industry body the Magazine Publishers of Australia, of which Zavecz is chairman, issue its Magazine Media 360° report which, the body says, “comprehensively captures all multi-platform data from 46 Australian magazine brands” across print, digital and social. It collates data from different sources including print readership from EMMA, Nielsen website data and social data from magazine publishers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.47.50 PMAccording to the report the top five magazine brands are Pacific Magazine’s Better Homes & Gardens, Bauer Media’s Woman’s Day,  Pacific Magazine’s New Idea, NewsLifeMedia’s and Bauer Media’s Australian Women’s Weekly.

“We should be evaluated the same way other media is evaluated and that’s total audience,” said Zavecz.

“Our audience isn’t just a person who paid for a magazine – it’s a person who paid for a mag, who saw it online, who communicated it via social, attended a ticketed event – it’s an all inclusive audience rather than just one part of the brand DNA.

“We’re gradually getting that message across. We’re getting it across to clients a lot clearer and a lot easier then we’re getting it across to agencies. That in itself represents a challenge for ourselves. Magazines haven’t had an audience problem, they’ve had an advertising problem.”

Commenting on the MPA’s 360° report, Bauer’s Goodchild said in a statement: “It’s the holistic approach to magazine media that is really defining the way forward for our brands and better reflects how today’s consumers are interacting with magazine media.

“This approach will be reinforced with the launch of the new Magazine 360 Report that will be released through the MPA on a quarterly basis to highlight the connections our brands are having across a number of key platforms including print, digital, and social media.”

Miranda Ward


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