Bauer closes eight titles including Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Instyle

Bauer Media has closed the eight titles it paused during COVID-19, despite CEO Brendon Hill promising they would return to print in September.

Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, InStyle, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Good Health, NW and OK are the impacted titles. Bauer is working through the closures with staff.

Just two months ago, before the sale of Bauer Media’s Australian and New Zealand assets to Mercury Capital, Hill said there were ‘absolutely’ plans to reinstate the titles and said he had ‘no idea’ why the brands inside Bauer would change.

Hill had promised all titles would return to print

The titles were initially closed in May due to the restrictions on travel and lockdowns from COVID-19. Advertising revenue to the titles was also impacted, particularly in the travel and fashion sectors.

A number of staff across the titles were stood down due to the work stoppage. Bauer Media was slammed for its handling of staff, with 150+ made redundant during the merger with Pacific Magazines and a number stood down without access to Job Keeper payments.

Hill said the unprecedented circumstances facing the industry were behind the closure.

“It has been a challenging time for Bauer and our team with exciting highs and devastating lows in recent months. We were delighted to acquire Pacific Magazines in May and were thrilled to recently announce a new future under Mercury Capital,” he said.

“However, these positive changes have taken place amidst an unexpected, uncertain and unrelenting economic downturn. No one could have anticipated the swift, widespread and ongoing impact of the pandemic on our business and industry.”

Hill pointed to a severe decline in advertising revenue. Ad spend plummeted by 40% in May with magazines hit by a loss of over 57%.

“We, like many other media companies, have deeply felt the impact of COVID-19. The reinstatement of these titles and teams was always dependent on the advertising market bouncing back and the return of domestic and international travel. Despite promising signs from advertisers in recent weeks, this has not outweighed the medium-term outlook for these titles,” said Hill.

“Additionally, with a second lockdown in Victoria and minimal travel, it is not feasible to sufficiently distribute NW and OK! without transit channels. The financial impact of these factors and the ongoing economic uncertainty makes the return and sustainability of these titles no longer viable. We have been forced to reset and future-proof the business like all of the media industry has.”

Editorial, sales and production staff will all be axed due to the closures. Some of the staff on the titles had been offered temporary work during the period, and Bauer says it will try to find alternatives for as many staff as possible.

“The real and significant loss is that of our exceptionally talented and loyal colleagues as part of these closures. We have been optimistic about bringing our team back, however, the market has only seen further decline since stand-downs were implemented in May,” said Hill.

“We wanted to give direction and clarity to our staff as early as possible, rather than create further uncertainty with irregular publishing schedules. This is a devastating blow to those who are directly affected, the entire Bauer team and the industry as a whole. I would like to acknowledge and thank the hard-working staff across these titles for their commitment and significant contribution to these brands.”

Bauer Media has announced the return of some of its New Zealand titles, including Woman’s Day and New Zealand Women’s Weekly.

“The return of a New Zealand operation is a green shoot for our staff, brands and readers. The New Zealand market is very different to Australia at this point in time with people back in the office, a more promising advertising market and many Kiwis enjoying domestic travel,” said Hill.

“The easing of restrictions has meant we have been able to bring back around 40 editorial and advertising staff and much-loved titles such as Woman’s Day, New Zealand Women’s Weekly, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Kia Ora, Your Home & Garden and The Listener which is fantastic. As conditions improve, we hope to continue to expand operations there.”

The recent sale of Bauer Media Australia to Mercury Capital received regulatory approvals and was completed on Wednesday 15 July. Mercury will work closely with the Bauer executive team to form a new strategy for the business and identify key areas for investment and growth. Bauer Media Australia will launch its new brand and strategy in the coming months.


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