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The magazine industry is in crisis with more than 200 staff losing their jobs and seven fashion, lifestyle and celebrity magazines dropping out of circulation in less than a week.
Media commentator Tim Burrowes said the events had “ripped the heart out of magazine publishing in Australia forever” and said it was difficult to see the suspended magazines coming back into circulation.
On Monday, days after acquiring Seven West Media’s magazine publishing arm Pacific Magazines for $40m, Bauer Media laid off 60 of the 160 staff it inherited and stood down a further 15 without pay or access to jobkeeper.
Staff were told via Zoom that several of the magazines, believed to be InStyle, Men’s Health and Women’s Health, would cease printing until further notice. The company has refused to comment on which titles it is suspending or to confirm the numbers of people affected.
“This is not a temporary situation because the magazines are not going to bounce back again,” Burrowes, the founder of media and marketing website Mumbrella, told Guardian Australia.
“Things will never be the same again, there will be some magazines, mass consumer ones, but not of the size, not of the scale of staffing, certainly not of the quality the Australian market once enjoyed.”
Bauer Media is the publisher of historic titles the Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and Gourmet Traveller, and until last month Pacific Magazines published Who, Better Homes & Gardens and Marie Claire.
With Bauer now owning several magazines which cater to the same market, sources say the merging of more titles and staff is highly likely, and some of the smaller titles may not survive. Bauer has closed many titles over the years including Cleo, Cosmopolitan, Top Gear, Zoo, Madison, Grazia, Burke’s Backyard, BBC Good Food and FHM.
In March the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission did not oppose the acquisition of Pacific by Bauer after originally expressing concern the proposal was likely to “substantially lessen competition by reducing the number of major print magazine publishers in key magazine categories from two to one”.
The ACCC said there was a similar readership for Woman’s Day (owned by Bauer) and New Idea (owned by Pacific Magazines) and Take 5 (Bauer) and That’s Life! (Pacific Magazines) and signalled that more magazines would close whether the acquisition went ahead or not.
Burrowes said Bauer said handled the transfer of staff between the two companies very poorly and in the long term had failed to pivot the print business to digital.
Nine sold it to Bauer for an extraordinary $525m in 2012. A former Nine executive said the company’s earnings before tax had shrunk from $248m a decade ago to an estimated $5m today.
Burrowes said it was the tipping point for magazines in Australia.
“I think the seeds of this were there well before the current crisis; magazines had a reckoning coming as every medium has,” he said.
“Newspapers had their crisis over the last decade; it’s been a slower process for magazines, but in the end you get a tipping point and it so happens that the lockdown was that tipping point.”
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