Magazine readership and circ numbers a mixed bag, industry aims to change the conversation

  • Media
  • October 29, 2013
  • Ben Fahy
Magazine readership and circ numbers a mixed bag, industry aims to change the conversation

Once again, Nielsen's latest readership results and the ABC's circulation numbers don't make for particularly pleasant reading for the magazine sector, with all weeklies charting declines deemed significant on the same time last year, plenty of other significant declines and a rare few increases. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the MPA and the various publishers are hoping to change the conversation from a one-dimensional discussion about quantity, to a multi-dimensional discussion about the quality of engagement across a number of platforms. 

Positives first, and of the significant increases in readership, NZ Gardener was up to 344,00 from 309,000, Weekend Gardener was up from 129,000 to 157,000, Dish was up from 144,000 to a record high of 169,000, Good was up from 44,000 to 59,000, Boating NZ was up from 131,000 to 158,000, Home NZ was up from 63,000 to 93,000 (the biggest percentage increase), Simply You was up from 90,000 to 111,000 and Simply You Living was up from 65,000 to 90,000.

Some of the other magazines to grow year on year readership—but not significantly—were Mindfood (188,000 to 208,000), NZ Good Health (171,000 to 180,000), North & South (263,000 to 270,000), Kia Ora (309,000 to a record high of 329,000), NZ House and Garden (542,000 to 571,000) and Cuisine (425,000 to 431,000). 

Circulation for the vast majority of titles continued the long-running trend of decline. And Good, Mindfood, Dish, Home NZ and North & South were the only magazines we could find that increased in both readership and average net paid circ in this round. 

Among the others bucking that circulation trend when compared to last year were Homestyle, NZ Life & Leisure, and Your Home and Garden

  • Check out all the readership figures for magazines here
  • And trawl through the ABC's circulation data here

As for the readership declines, there were plenty to choose from and they were most noticeable in the weeklies, which were all down significantly. The biggest losers (as a percentage of total readership) in this category were Lucky Break (176,000 to 137,000), NW Magazine (109,000 to 89,000), TV Guide (608,000 to 505,000) and Time (210,000 to 174,000). 

Woman's Day was down year on year from 841,000 to 793,000 (but up on the last quarter's figures), while NZ Woman's Weekly was down on from 808,000 to 770,000 year on year (and down only slightly from last quarter) 

Girlfriend lost a quarter of its audience since last year, down from 200,000 to 150,000, as did NZ Rugby World, down from 235,000 to 178,000). Australian Women's Weekly lost almost 100,000 readers, down from 764,000 to 669,000, Next lost almost 50,000 readers, down from 327,000 to 273,000, and Reader's Digest was down from 386,000 to 322,000. 

Sky Sport the Magazine and Sky Watch both charted significant declines, down to 299,000 and 880,000 respectively (according to Nielsen, Sky Watch is still the country's most read magazine behind AA Directions, although it was down from one million a year ago). 

The food category was a mixed bag, with gains for Dish and Cuisine, but significant losses for Recipes+ (down from 130,000 to 95,000) and Food (down from 362,000 to 288,000). 

Homestyle, AA Directions, Little Treasures, NZ Fashion Quarterly and NZ Bride and Groom were some of the other magazines to chart significant declines. 

While these topline numbers are obviously important and offer a guide to the state of the industry at one moment in time, the MPA and many of the publishers are trying to move away from focusing on them because they are deemed to be relatively one-dimensional. To quote Don Draper: "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation." So instead, they are increasingly focusing on the quality of the audience and the level of engagement these magazine brands can offer and, as the MPA's Katrina Horton said after the last release, it needs to reference the various tactics publishers are employing to cater to their communities, such as digital properties and special events. 

Bauer was the only publisher to send a release about its performance (APN, which looks set to offload a couple of its magazines to Bauer in the near future, also sent a release but focused on its newspaper brands): 

Bauer: 

At Bauer, women are at the heart of our DNA. Bauer is the long-standing market leader for reaching New Zealand women and with our rapidly growing brand communities across print, events and digital platforms our relationship with New Zealand women is deeper and more diverse than ever before. The latest statistics released today show Bauer magazines reach 1,104,000 women aged 20-59 years annually, an increase on the previous release. This is cemented by two powerhouse brands, Woman’s Day and The Australian Women’s Weekly. Woman’s Day is the country’s most-read newsstand magazine with 793,000 weekly readers, up 7000 readers on the previous release. The magazine is the highest-selling weekly magazine for women, with a total circulation of 101,183. The Australian Women’s Weekly, celebrating its 80th birthday this edition, is easily the most read and sold monthly newsstand magazine with 669,000 readers and a circulation 55.5 per cent higher than its nearest competitor. 

Bauer‘s specialist titles are also making readership or circulation gains. The recently repositioned Good Health Choices magazine is an excellent example of how Bauer’s consumer-led strategy and focus on innovation can drive positive change amongst health-conscious New Zealanders. Readership for this title is up 5.3 percent year on year and circulation is following suit. Similarly the renovator‘s favourite, Your Home and Garden, has enjoyed a circulation increase of 2.0 per cent on the previous release. 

Bauer Media‘s reputation for quality is delivering a growing market of the country’s most influential and affluent. Based on a single average issue, more than two-thirds of all New Zealand households earning incomes of $200,000+ will have read a Bauer magazine and over the course of the past year readership by this discerning audience has climbed 32.3 per cent. 

KiaOra magazine, a favourite with premium advertisers for its ability to deliver the country’s most discerning audiences, has reached a record high with a readership of 329,000 high flyers, up 6.5 per cent year on year. 

HOME New Zealand has again taken out the top spot with the highest percentage readership increase of any New Zealand magazine, up a massive 47.6 per cent year on year. Audited circulation is also up over the same period. 

Current affairs agenda-setter North and South has had a readership increase of 2.7 per cent across the year and supermarket sales grew 12.4 per cent. Following on from the Canon awards, North & South also took out the MPA award for Best News and Current affairs title and Virginia Larson, editor of North & South, won the overall Editor of the Year accolade. Metro magazine was recognised for innovation with the Best Integrated Publishing model, on the back of strong success with the Metro Eats website and app and plethora of digital touchpoints. 

In terms of engagement metrics, the average number of pick-ups for Bauer consumer titles has increased 5 percent whilst average time spent reading Bauer titles has lengthened by 10.5 percent year on year. 

“An interesting question for media companies in today’s highly fragmented world is around purpose,"  says CEO Paul Dykzeul. "At Bauer we’re not just interested in the pursuit of publishing excellence, although that’s a given. We are also delving into the deeper question of why we do what we do. At Bauer, we listen, we inform, we engage, we ignite thoughts and inspire action. I‘m encouraging all of my teams to have a powerful sense of purpose that will drive our culture and brand development into a vibrant future."

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