Magazines Now: Are Media buys Ovato from Hannans + Switzer, School Road

Magazines Now

Readly, Readership, Ad revenue forecast you don’t want to read

Magazines have always been a part of Mediaweek. Although we went digital four years ago, we still report regularly on the sector and consume magazines as printed and digital products.

Despite massive sector challenges, some fast-tracked by Covid-19, publishers are launching and relaunching titles. The numbers that magazines do in terms of circulation and readership (now only available again from Roy Morgan) aren’t what they used to be, but there remains a smaller, yet vibrant magazine sector offering information and entertainment to readers and opportunity for advertisers.

Mediaweek has been tracking many magazine initiatives this year and we will follow up on them all. (See links below to see if you missed any.)

Some of the recent developments we will be following up on include:

Harper’s Bazaar Australia

Switzer Media has been bold in securing this licence from Hearst International. It’s a wonderful brand name, but Australian publishers have tried twice before getting the title off the ground here. For this third time to succeed we are guessing it will need to be a lean operation with no big publisher overheads which is one of the things that held it back previously. Switzer Media publisher Maureen Jordan is investing though, particularly in talent.

See also: Harper’s Bazaar returning to Australia at indie publishing house

Switzer Media secures Eugenie Kelly to edit return of Harper’s Bazaar

School Road Publishing

New Zealand has always had a thriving magazine market. It took a massive kick in the guts at the start of Covid when what was then Bauer New Zealand backed out of the market suddenly in early 2020. Part of the industry response was well known New Zealand magazine editor Sido Kitchin organising a group of talented people to start an indie publisher.

School Road Publishing is its name and so far they have released four titles and called on the expertise of former Bauer Australia and New Zealand boss Paul Dykzuel as a consultant and board member.

The four titles are Woman, Haven, Thrive and Scout.

You can find them on Readly and we will feature Sido Kitchin updating on their progress here soon.

Photo L-R: School Road Publishing editorial team – Wendyl Nissen, Vanessa Marshall, Sido Kitchin and Sarah-Kate Lynch

See also: Ex-Bauer boss and award-winning magazine editor believe in print

Morgan Magazine and Newspaper Readership

Earlier this year what’s left of the major Australian magazine publishers decided that two magazine readership surveys was perhaps a little excessive. That marked the end of the emma readership initiative, leaving Roy Morgan as the sole provider of readership figures. We will explore the numbers in further detail in the future.

At present there is readership for newspapers and magazines available. Both for the print products as standalone, plus a number for cross-platform readership which includes the digital audience.

In print readership, the biggest titles remain the major supermarket titles from Coles and Woolworth’s, followed by the combined readership of the state motoring associations members ship magazines, NRMA, RACV etc.

The monthly Are Media giants Better Homes and Gardens and The Australian Women’s Weekly both have print readership over 1m, as does the magazine Bunnings publishers for its customers.

Here are the numbers for the 1m+ titles and the change year-on-year as March 31, 2021.

Coles   4,959,000        +10.5%
Fresh   4,462,000        +11.1%
Club motoring 2,522,000        +2.1%
Better Homes and Gardens    1,591,000        -10.2%
Bunnings magazine     1,550,000        +32.5%
Australian Women’s Weekly  1,389,000        +3.9%

In the weekly marketplace, the two fierce rivals are now of course under common ownership. The numbers are still dropping for the print products, with Woman’s Day in the lead.

Woman’s Day 699,000           -17.0%
New Idea         589,000           -22.2%

Are Media buys distributor from Ovato

Under the guidance of new CEO Jane Huxley, Australia’s biggest magazine publisher is undertaking an innovative strategy. Are Media is acquiring the sole large magazine distributor in Australia, Ovato Retail Distribution (formerly Gordon & Gotch). The sale has been overseen by Michael and James Hannan, chairman and CEO respectively of print group Ovato.

Just late last week the ACCC said other magazine publishers thought Ovato was the only viable option for national distribution, indicating it wouldn’t oppose the sale. ACCC chair Rod Sims indicated there would unlikely be “a substantial lessening of competition”. Sims also noted Are Media was unlikely to get any significant competitive advantage at point of sale or from accessing data from competing publishers’ sales.

Are Media is acquiring both the Australian and New Zealand distribution businesses. However the sales will be split with Australia being sold first while they wait for approval from the competition regulator in New Zealand. Both sales are expected to be completed by the end of August 2021. The sale price is $15m in total – $10m for Australia and $5m for New Zealand. The new owner also has to accept a “negative working capital position” of $27m.

The move by Are Media back into magazine distribution follows the decision of Bauer in 2016 to close its Network magazine distribution division, handing over its titles to Gordon & Gotch.

Magazine ad revenue outlook: Grim

To quickly get an idea of how the magazine sector has shrunk you just need to look at the revenue figures. The latest Zenith adspend forecast for Australia is sober reading.

In 2010 the consumer and busines titles sold advertising worth an estimated $871m (business $217m and consumer $653). A decade later in 2020 that number had morphed to $105m (business $16m and consumer $90m). The 2023 forecast is even grimmer with combined ad revenue of $74m (business $11m and consumer $63m).

Digital platforms: Readly v Apple News+

Part of the Mediaweek magazine habit is one of the magazine subscription platforms. Or the ‘Netflix of magazines’ as they are being referred to. I started off using Apple News+ and was impressed with the value.

However, when I got around to checking out the Readly offer, not only was it $5 cheaper a month, it offers a staggering magazine library of some 5,000 titles. There’s two other reasons to jump now also – it’s just $10 a month and new users get two months free. Unlike Apple News+, all Readly magazines are the complete print facsimile, not a web version as is the case with some Apple News+ titles.

The downside for magazine publishers and retailers of the subscription platforms are obvious – people might buy even less titles at retail and subscribe less at the publisher’s price.

The upside is that they will foster more interest in magazines, motivating some to either buy titles at retail and then perhaps subscribe to the hard copy. It also gives any advertisers a much bigger audience.

It’s now a growing part of the magazine business and we will explore it more here in the following weeks with opinion from publishers and retailers about the platforms’ impact.

Lockdown reading list

Home Beautiful (Are Media)

This has long been a great magazine through recent owners and editors. The latter a list that includes Wendy Moore, Sarah Burman and now under acting editor Katrina O’Brien. The title finds great homes and details properties better than anyone else does.

Country Style (Are Media)

This magazine looks better all the time, especially during a miserable Covid-impacted Sydney winter. The title has been around for ages and, if memory serves correctly, started with Century Publishing, then moving through FPC, News Magazines to Bauer, now of course Are Media. The editor is Kylie Imeson, a Gourmet Traveller Wine alumni.

Choice (Australian Consumer’s Association)

The monthly consumer title, or more correctly the parent brand Australian Consumers’ Associations, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. The first Choice publication for members was sent to 500. That quickly grew to 10,000 and these days the magazine is sent to 185,000 members. There’s not enough done in the media to fight for the consumer (with some notable exceptions like A Current Affair) so help protect yourself and others by signing up. You’ll also potentially save a lot and quickly realise how many items Aldi stocks that rate better than much higher-priced alternatives.

Coming soon: Sido Kitchen on School Road
Creating music: Making Rolling Stone pay
Digital subscription platforms: Impact on publishers and retailers
How to kick-start your magazine habit

See also:

Women’s Health announces new editor-in-chief as Jacqui Mooney steps down

Are Media encourages women to engage with magazines in new campaign

Rolling Stone Australia to release Tones And I magazine cover as NFT

Switzer Media appoints Jillian Davison creative director for Harper’s Bazaar Australia

Are Media announces six sponsors for Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards

Lovatts Media’s Nourish magazine launches the 2021 Nourish Vegan Awards

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