Mag industry not selling itself to media buyers

By By Amy Kellow | 30 November 2012

As the magazine industry continues to bemoan its lagging advertiser interest, experts have argued its woes stem not from a flawed medium, but from a disconnect with media agencies, no unified voice and a failure by publishers to innovate.

In recent years, Australian magazines have struggled to compete for advertisers’ attention, often losing out to emerging digital platforms. This has seen the embattled sector receive only 4% of total main media spend, compared to the US and UK sectors which receive 8% and 12%, respectively.

The disparity was recently questioned at a Magazine Publishers of Australia (MPA) dinner by ACP Magazines chief executive Matt Stanton, after it was revealed in the FIPP World Magazine Trends Report 2011/12.

Industry figures have since offered insight and solutions to how the local market can combat its deflated ad state.

Fusion Strategy director Steve Allen told AdNews: “There has been an unwarranted and illogical disconnect between the fundamentals of the magazine marketplace, media agencies and their advertiser clients. Thus we have a series of factors which conspire to deliver an apparent lower share for magazines.”

Citrus Media director Jim Flynn echoed this sentiment, arguing that the industry must remind media agencies of the “unique relationship” magazines offer their readers.

“I passionately believe magazines still offer amazing value and response rates,” he said. “We just need to remind media planners about their unique relationship with readers.”

Flynn argued innovation was necessary if the industry wanted to survive, let alone receive a higher share, and said digital could impact major publishers as it had done previously to smaller, now-folded titles.

“The magazine industry needs to innovate faster than the market is changing. That pesky shibboleth of an internet has rapaciously chewed its way through the landscape and is having a snack on weaker magazines before moving onto who knows what else.”

Westwick-Farrow Media publisher and Publishers Australia chairman Geoff Hird said: "The Australian magazine industry needs a unified voice to remind marketers and agencies of the ongoing strength and viability of our unique media channel. In recent years, the MPA has been virtually dormant as two of the leading three players have gone through some major change processes. It’s great to see the MPA is now re-igniting itself, which will add some much appreciated volume and impact to the persistent promotional voice of Publishers Australia. PA members have done and continue to do a great job at promoting and proving the engagement and cut-through that specialist magazines still deliver – but this is only a small part of the equation. The perceived position of magazines in media buying land comes not from niche titles but from what the big three are doing.

"As smaller publishers, many of our members have been faster to transform and innovate, which has protected them from the major ad revenue slide the larger players have experienced. We have also been far more active in the market, and in promoting magazines, over the last few years. So now there is more reason than ever for the both bodies to work closely together as we can benefit from the power and resources of the MPA, and they can benefit from our established and successful events (such as Magazine Week and Media Sales Day) and member innovation.

"There is some fantastic recent research data available now, such as the FIPP’s Proof of Performance report (,  that gives magazine media companies plenty to be encouraged by, and plenty to shout about to media buyers and marketers. Magazines are alive and well, and it is time that ALL involved in our industry started believing it, and getting together to create a powerful and unified voice."

Furthermore, MPA executive director Robin Parkes argued low agency spend could be due to the magazine industry allowing itself to be clumped with newspapers.

“Our industry has not been telling its story, allowing itself to be labelled as ‘traditional’ media,” she said. “It has been lax in marketing itself. Perhaps international advertisers have a better understanding of what magazines offer?”
The newly installed MPA boss was confident the organisation, which ‘relaunched’ last month, could leverage a higher ad share in the future for magazines by more aggressively promoting its offering.

NOTE: The original quote attributed to Westwick-Farrow Media publisher and Publishers Australia chairman Geoff Hird was incorrect. The article has now been amended to include his full original quote.

This article first appeared in the 30 November 2012 edition of AdNews, in print and on iPad. Click here to subscribe for more news, features and opinion.

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