Pacific Magazines hands three of its babies to APN in big publishing switcheroo

Pacific Magazines’ slogan is “we create magazines people love”. But APN News & Media will soon be creating at least three of the core titles those people love, after New Zealand Magazines acquired the licence to publish the weeklies New Idea and That’s Life, and the monthly Girlfriend.

The agreement comes into play from 1 October and, according to the release, it “creates an alliance that extends New Zealand Magazines’ [APN’s magazine arm] reach in new market segments, which will create great flexibility for advertisers”.

NZ Magazines’ chief executive Sarah Sandley was unavailable for comment, as was Pacific Magazines’ NZ CFO Peter Nouwens (funny how media types in this industry often seem to be busy and unable to comment when the news is actually about them). So the only option was to hunt for a few educated, and sometimes completely uneducated, guesses on the rationale behind the ‘strategic arrangement’.

It seems to be a decision based primarily on back room economics, rather than a publishing strategy. And the implications seem to be that the Pacific Magazines office in Auckland will close, with staff working out of the APN offices and sharing infrastructure to reduce costs. As for whether anyone will be losing their jobs, no comment yet. And as for how much APN paid for the licenses, that’s commercially sensitive, although mag boffins believe it was likely to be nothing, aside for a commitment to future royalties and presumably some kind of printing agreement with APN.

In a response to our questions to Martin Simons, APN Group publishing chief executive said (through its PR company): “APN has agreed to licence terms with Pacific to grow the titles in the New Zealand market, which fits the company’s overall strategy of strengthening its magazines portfolio – it is a growth-based strategy, is not an exercise in consolidation of publications. The titles will maintain separate content teams and continue to compete in the market with existing NZ Magazines’ titles and ACP. There will be some synergies in market approach to advertisers with an expanded NZ Magazines commercial team being able to offer advertisers great flexibility in market coverage through the expanded portfolio, including bundling opportunities. Printing arrangements will continue as at present.”

The arrangement also raises some interesting questions about distribution. APN uses Netlink, as does ACP. And Pacific Magazines uses Gordon & Gotch, so with New Idea now going to APN, it’s possible Netlink could have all three major weeklies.

The release says each title will retain its own editorial focus, that the titles are complementary with NZ Magazine’s existing portfolio and that “all publications would provide a differentiated offering, extending APN’s multimedia strategy by servicing markets with an even broader product suite for advertisers”. And from APN’s point of view, the partnership increases New Zealand Magazines’ unduplicated reach from 1.2 million New Zealanders to 1.5 million. It also puts them in a better position to compete with ACP.

But there are some fairly obvious crossovers with the titles: NZ Woman’s Weekly vs New Idea (which is down from a high of around 65,000 net NZ circulation in 2006 to 51,000 in the most recent ABC figures) and Creme, the highest-selling youth publication, vs Girlfriend.

Still, because APN has acquired the license to publish the magazines, not the magazines themselves, it’s unlikely there will be any consolidation, at least not in the near future (there was plenty for the mag industry to be happy with in the latest Nielsen readership survey, but the mass market weeklies were the exception). No official word on how it will affect Pacific Mag’s other local title NZ Weddings, or why APN didn’t want it, but it appears as if that title is also on the hunt for interested suitors.

At present Woman’s Weekly has a readership of 807,000 and is still leading the weekly magazine titles, although the gap is closing fast, with ACP’s Woman’s Day now just 6000 readers off the pace. ABC figures show Woman’s Weekly is down from a high of 102121 total net NZ circulation in 2005 to 80518 now. And, according to the release, NZ Listener is still the most read weekly current affairs title and Simply You is the country’s best-selling fashion magazine.

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