“We have got quite a bit of good news,” said Paul Gardiner this week when talking to Mediaweek about the outlook at Bauer Media Australia.
Has the death of magazines been over-reported? How gloomy are things really?
Our interview with Gardiner comes after SMI reported magazine agency adspend dropped double digits again in February 2019.
But things aren’t that dismal at Bauer Media Australia according to its commercial director.
“We are in the best position we have been in for a long time.”
Gardiner is always one to tell it like it is. He wasn’t sugar-coating the past when he told us: “It wasn’t looking too flash 18 months ago.
“When I started [in Sydney] we were coming off 10 years of constant decline. 2017 was the worst year we ever had.
“Our teams have subsequently been working very hard and we are starting to hit our budgets and see some growth. Q1 2019 was the strongest quarter we have had in 10 years. We have managed to out perform the market and Bauer got a positive mention on the SMI Report.
“While the market was down 10% in February, we were up 10%. That is very positive considering where we have come from.”
In discussing reasons for the turn-around, Gardiner started talking about trust, engagement and attention, “spaces that magazine brands traditionally have owned”.
Bauer Media is able to report good news about readership. “Our audiences are holding. We have had two consecutive readership audits showing growth across our portfolio. Television meanwhile is reporting a double-digit decline.
“Our digital network is also going well. Now To Love has its biggest audience ever with just over 2m uniques. Our luxury cross platform audience has grown.
“We have got a good news story.”
Gardiner said Bauer Media Australia is seeing brands returning to magazines. “Marketers are going through a period where they are evaluating their spend as audiences shift. Advertisers that haven’t been in magazines are up, and others that have been out for a while, are returning.
“The challenge for us when we reset our commercial opportunities 15 months ago was we knew we would have to work really hard to get advertisers back. It is harder to get an advertiser back than it is to look after an advertiser that is currently using the medium. We have had to work really hard to give them a reason to take another look at Bauer.”
Gardiner also mentioned the success of Bauer’s content division Story 54.
“We have also done a lot of work around our purpose as a media owner. We were really clear about our purpose last year, which was around equality for everyone and a better future for Australian women. We worked hard on our 10 Million Words for a more equal female future initiative, and an amazing campaign to lobby to remove the tax on feminine hygiene products. We made a bit of a statement in the market as to what we are about.”
As to ongoing challenges, Gardiner said the mass titles are a constant work in progress. “Those titles would be the biggest issues for us as audiences find the content in other places. For us the strategy has been to go hard in the digital space with Now To Love. What we are finding is we are able to make up the potential downgrade in ad dollars from our weeklies across our digital network.
“We still have a job to do with the weeklies in educating the market about the role of weekly magazines. The role is around time out, escapism – entertainment. They still play an important role.”
Monday: Gardiner gets specific on Bauer Media strategy, titles that have been closed or sold, staff departures plus what is attracting the growing ad dollars.