For the magazine industry, 2006 was the year publishers at last cracked their eyes at the dawning digital future.
In early August, Pacific Magazines became the first of the leading companies to experiment with an exclusively online magazine with the launch of redzero.com.au, a fashion title aimed at teens and women in their 20s.
FPC Magazines also proved it was taking cyberspace seriously by increasing its online team from precisely no people to 30 during the past 12 months.
Among the initiatives of interactive group general manager Michael Gethen was the November launch of online portal taste.com.au, which consolidated the content of all FPC’s print food publications. “There is quite a bit of experimentation with magazine publishers coming on to the web now,” Mr Gethen told Media. “Finally.”
At the American Magazine Conference in October Jeffrey Cole, of the Centre for the Digital Future, galvanised the industry when he predicted that information-based magazines would not survive in print form and must move online.
The message has been heeded by companies such as Time Inc. As reported elsewhere in this section, it is in the process of moving much of its breaking news reportage to its website, leaving the print publication to focus on analysis and opinion.
Also this year, U.S. magazines Teen People and Elle Girl abandoned print production altogether and moved entirely online.
However, readership surveys confirm that while readers are embracing online, they still enjoy the old-fangled feel of paper.
According to Roy Morgan Research, total readership of the 136 leading consumer magazines was 46.8 million in the 12 months to September, up a healthy 3.8 per cent on the previous corresponding period.
Again, the best read title was ACP Magazines’ Woman’s Day (which averaged 2.8 million readers a week), followed by monthly stablemate The Australian Women’s Weekly (2.5 million a month) and PacMags’ New Idea (2.4 million a week).
Newcomers this year included PacMags’ celebrity gossip magazine Famous (in February), Heart Healthy Living (October) and Love2Shop (November); Emap’s Zoo Weekly (February); Reader’s Digest’s HealthSmart (September); and Luna Media’s G Magazine (November).
Australian Geographic was acquired by ACP in November after three months on the market.
The most significant relaunch was that of Northern & Shell Pacific’s celebrity magazine OK!, which went from monthly to weekly publication in October. Those not seeing out the year included PacMags’ Family Circle, which folded in November after a bold attempt to find a younger readership succeeded only in driving away its existing, older readership.
However, at least Family Circle had 33 good years. Among the other significant casualties were PacMags’ Explode and FPC’s Star Enquirer, both of which lasted just six months.
Capping the year was the November acquisition by News Limited (publisher of The Australian) of FPC’s 25 glossies for an estimated $180 million.
The deal pushes News from the 10th biggest consumer magazine publisher to third.
And, with News Magazines boss Tony Kendall promising to be “reasonably aggressive” with title launches, it also set the scene for an eventful 2007.