COMMENT: Grazia’s woes signal the magazine sector’s troubles are only just beginning

grazia-and-famousIt’s not quite six months since I picked up the first edition of Grazia and counted the ads.

The ACP and Hearst joint venture made an impressive debut indeed – 172 pages, including 62.5 ad pages – an ad ratio of 36%. It was a great start for the weekly fashion fix. But it’s amazing how things can go down the gurgler in six months.  

Today I’ve picked up the February 9 edition. At 108 pages, it’s still thick. But the ads have vanished.

There are just 12 ads throughout the whole edition (and that’s including an ad for sister TV station Nine and a couple of half pages from Australia Post that look like they might be fillers). That’s an ad ratio of just 11%. Virtually none of the ads are in premium slots – there’s a run from page 5 to page 17 with no ads; then another all the way from page 17 to 39.

And that’s not a one-off. Last week’s 108 page edition had just seven pages of ads, including one for Nine. That’s a ratio of a horrible 6%. From page 20 through to page 88 – let’s just repeat that, from page 20 through to page 88 – there was not a single ad.

But that’s not to pick just on Grazia, or ACP – this is a problem out of the hands of sales teams. I grabbed the new edition of Pacific Magazines’ Famous, which is also datelined February 9, and the state of its flatplan suggests that this is a problem afflicting many of the weeklies.

Famous staggers towards a fractionally healthier ed-ad mix, with ten pages of ads, giving it an ad ratio of about 11%. But that’s being generous because it includes a page for sister title Women’s Health, a page for Earth Hour, which I’m guessing was free, and a couple of direct response pages with the sort of low production values that imply a pretty low yield.

Now one thing to bear in mind is that these editions will probably (hopefully!) be the low water mark. The chances are that the sales teams were closing them over the Christmas / summer break, when media agencies and clients were hard to reach and even harder to persuade to buy pages. But even so, it’s another sign that the most pessimistic predictions are also looking the most accurate.

Back at the beginning of December, when News Magazines decided to postpone the launch of Glamour, which was going to be a direct competitor to Grazia, it was an embarrasment for the publisher. Two months on and it looks like the smartest publishing decision of 2008.

Meanwhile, based on this unscientific sample of two magazines and two publishers, there is one thing they deserve a lot of credit for. ACP and Pac Mags are clearly continuing to invest in the product, rather than panicking and slashing edition sizes too far. Is suspect that many readers will not even have noticed.

But if this goes on, and spreads to the sector as a whole, then expect staff cuts and magazines closures. This is not going to be much fun.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.