Glossing up the insert: Fairfax unveils new-look Sunday magazine

Over the weekend, Fairfax distributed a revamp of Sunday, the magazine insert included on a weekly basis with the Sunday Star-Times

The new version features an updated portrait layout, more pages and a combination of new content and the return of various favourites that have thus far appeared in the pages of the magazine over the last ten years.

Here’s what the magazine looked like previously:

Here’s what it looks like now:


To incorporate the new design elements, Fairfax brought in art director Delaney Tabron to work closely with Sunday editor Rebecca Kamm, who joined the publication in January.

Tabron, who previously worked for Metro and No, has already won a quartet of awards for her art direction while working in both the advertising and magazine industries, and Fairfax describes her as “one of the country’s top art directors and stylists.”

In addition changing the visual elements of the magazine, Fairfax has also introduced several content changes. 

All food-related articles previously published in the Sunday Star-Times have now been shifted across to the magazine, which means that celebrity chef Ray McVinnie’s contribution will shift from paper to insert. 

Joining McVinnie on the pages of Sunday is media favourite Nadia Lim, who will be presenting a weekly double-page spread on her experiments with Kiwi cuisine. 
And the changes aren’t limited to food. The editorial team has also resurrected the ‘Home Photo’ showcase, which features a double-page image and article that takes readers inside the living rooms of fascinating New Zealanders.  

Despite introducing a raft of changes, Kamm and Tabron are also retaining some of the regular features that have seen the magazine hold onto a strong female readership since its launch ten years ago.

According to a release, the magazine will still have its Going Up/Down column, Shoe of the Week, its beauty and fashion pages and a strong emphasis on “insightful, in-depth features”. 

So why has Fairfax invested in revamping the Sunday magazine rather than the paper the paper that carries it?

“Sunday Magazine is a successful Fairfax title and occupies a unique space in the market,” says Fairfax group marketing director Campbell Mitchell. “Since its inception ten years ago, it’s proved popular with both readers and advertisers: Sunday has carved a niche for itself as the only weekly, female-skewed magazine with ‘brains’.”

This niche makes the magazine popular among brands that want to target female consumers. And by increasing the number of pages in the insert, Fairfax has created additional space for more advertising, making it possible to generate more revenue.

In its promotional material regarding the Sunday re-launch, Fairfax draws attention to a range of advertising options now available in the magazine, and also points out that there are opportunities for advertisers to pay for native content.  

And Fairfax’s decision to push the magazine seems to make commercial sense, given that magazines have shown more stability than newspapers in attracting ad spend over the last few years.        

According to the ASA ad spend figures released in December 2013, magazine advertising ad spend only dropped from $219 million in 2010 to $211 million last year (and magazine ad spend actually increased from $210 million in 2012). Comparatively, newspaper ad spend dropped from $627 million in 2010 to $494 million over the same period. 

And while ad spend is clearly dropping in both newspaper and print advertising, it does seem as though an investment in a magazine (even one inserted in a newspaper) makes more commercial sense.

However, this hasn’t convinced Fairfax to hold onto inserts across the ditch, where both the Sydney and Melbourne magazine inserts were discontinued in October last year. 
In response to making the 45 redundancies, which in part were caused by the discontinuation of the inserts, Fairfax Media’s managing Director of Australian publishing media Allen Williams said: “It’s no secret to anyone in the media business that magazines have been an increasingly challenged platform. The Sydney/Melbourne titles have been great magazines, but it makes commercial sense to make these changes.”

New Zealand’s media landscape is also changing, and this is evidenced by the continued drop in readership of newspapers and magazines across the board—and the Sunday Star-Times and Sunday magazine aren’t exceptions to this trend. 

Nielsen’s recent readership stats indicated a dip of 41,000 readers for the Sunday Star-Times, as it dropped from 408,000 weekly readers to 367,000. Sunday magazine’s results were more stable, dipping less markedly from 348,000 to 334,000.

When the statistics are considered for both publications between 2009 and 2013, they do however tell a bleak story, with both publications losing significant readership chunks.

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