Housty, is there a strong future for Australasian magazines?

Each month we pose a question to the brilliant Peter Houston, co-host of the Media Voices podcast, who will answer in his fabulously inimitable way. This month’s question comes from content and communications specialist Flora Muirhead.

Housty, we have a problem

Do you think there is a strong future within the Australasian magazine market?

Having never been to Australia or New Zealand (speaking gigs welcome) I’m not sure I’m the best person to be talking about the region’s magazine markets. But, as luck would have it, I’ve just shared a story about Elle Australia returning to print in the Magazine Diaries newsletter.

The piece from The Sydney Morning Herald explains that the iconic fashion title will return to the newsstands after a four-year hiatus, suggesting that readers are tired of the ‘digital deluge’.

The digital deluge line is kind of bogus. Elle Australia is publishing two print editions next year – one in March and one in September to hit the key months in the fashion calendar (who knew). Unless readers are going to take a full six months to read the issues and organise their wardrobes, digital media isn’t going anywhere.

The iconic fashion title’s move back into print does, however, highlight what I see as a big part of the future for the magazine market, in Australia and everywhere else: Print as a valued part of a diversified publishing portfolio.

Publishing vs beancounting

For years, we’ve been told that print is dead and digital is the future. Condé boss Roger Lynch infamously said last year that the world’s most famous magazine company wasn’t a magazine company any more. That’s less to do with magazine publishing and more to do with bean counting: when you still publish 70 million magazines a year, regardless of your online traffic, you’re at least in part a magazine company.

Even as a tiny indie publisher, we know at The Grub Street Journal how important digital is to discovery, direct sales and, ultimately, distribution. No one I know does print only and I’m much more impressed by companies that are getting honest about where print sits in their print + digital portfolios.

I’ve been saying it for years, but I’ll say it again, print vs digital is BS and the future of the magazine market, as Elle Australia seems to be proving, is a mix of low-frequency, highly desirable print with high-frequency digital media in multiple formats.

Readership rises

Looking specifically at Australia, the numbers for print look pretty good. Popular magazine titles like Australian Women’s Weekly, Vogue Australia, Marie Claire, and Women’s Day have all enjoyed readership rises in the 12 months to June 2023.

Advertising, at least in the luxury space, seems to be doing alright too. Are Media, which publishes Elle Australia and has about 85% of Australia’s women’s consumer magazine market 

says it is focusing its efforts in four areas – home, fashion and beauty, lifestyle, and entertainment.

“The luxury contingent love print,” Are Media’s Jane Huxley told The Sydney Morning Herald. “They also love to reach our audiences across our digital sites and social, but they love a thick glossy page more than anybody else.”

You see, fancy print + engaging digital FTW!

Peter Houston is one third of the Media Voices podcast, a magazine publishing consultant and trainer, freelance writer, and co-publisher of The Grub Street Journal, a magazine for people who make magazines.

Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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