|THE $2 billion-a-year Australian magazine industry continued its roller-coaster ride with the latest readership figures, which delivered highs and lows for publishers who are struggling to second-guess consumers.
The latest round of Roy Morgan figures for the 12 months ending on June 30, 2010, provide further evidence that magazine rises and falls are mirroring economic changes and consumer trends as people gravitate towards food, homemaker and health titles.
ACP Magazines' Recipes+ title jumped an impressive 33.3 per cent, to 432,000, while its Australian House & Garden grew 22.3 per cent, to 647,000. Fishing World, Men's Fitness, Australian Traveller, Diabetic Living and BRW were among titles to record solid growth.
Some of the largest falls in readership were felt by the lads sector. ACP Magazines axed Ralph two months ago, News Limited's Alpha fell 29.3 per cent, to 176,000, and ACP's Wheels fell 15.6 per cent, to 309,000. ACP's young women's title Shop Til You Drop also slid 15.5 per cent to 163,000.
Weekly magazines, which are 56 per cent of the entire market in sales, also suffered devastating falls. ACP's Grazia fell 14.4 per cent, to 167,000, and Pacific Magazine's New Idea fell 13.4 per cent, to 1,502,000.
Simon Davies, the head of publishing at the media buying agency OMD, was expecting weekly titles to take a hit in readership.
Circulation of weekly magazines has been in long-term decline, falling a troubling 18.3 per cent in sales between June 2007 and June 2010, said Steve Allen, of the independent media firm Fusion Strategy.
Mr Davies said discretionary spending was ''tough at the moment''.
''You've got increased cigarette prices also competing for that cash in pocket,'' he said. ''It's going to be incredibly tough for weeklies to recover.''
Phil Scott, the group publisher director at ACP Magazines, blamed a year of tight marketing budgets and consumers being less willing to pay for magazines.
''There is more stability in the market than this time last year and we expect the declines to plateau moving forward,'' Mr Scott said.
''Let's not forget that retailers started their sales in April and they're still continuing today. Magazines are part of the retail market and are a discretionary spend. At the end of the day no one will die if they don't buy a magazine.''
Pacific Magazines continues to back its reinvigorated New Idea with advertising but as yet it had not yielded new readers, said its chief executive, Nick Chan.
''Our circulation performance with New Idea isn't translating into readership but I think it takes time for circulations to turn around and translate,'' Mr Chan said. ''I hope that will happen in the next year.''
On a positive note, the launch of MasterChef Magazine by News Ltd is expected to inject some growth into the food sector. But whether the new title will cannibalise competing titles is yet to be seen.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
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