Publishers Brace for Niche Magazine Fight

The Australian | 29 November 2006


By Sally Jackson


PUBLISHERS Australia has celebrated the excellence of small to medium-size magazine companies but also warned that they must think more creatively about how to get their publications into the hands of readers.


At the association’s 11th annual Bell Awards, held in Sydney last week, 34 trophies were presented to the publishers of business-to-business, specialist and niche consumer magazines, with popular science title Cosmos taking the top honour of magazine of the year. But Publishers Australia executive director Chris Tchakalian has sounded a warning note to its 120 members, saying the growing reluctance of retailers to carry lower-turnover titles threatened their future.

“The beauty of the Australian magazine market has always been that entry to it was reasonably uninhibited.”

“You can have the best magazine going but the public will never see it,” he said. “What you will see is a crippling of the opportunities to launch new titles by the medium to small publisher ... We’re not saying it’s going to happen overnight, but the signs are there. That is what has happened overseas.”


Large retailers such as Woolworths and Coles already cherrypick only the biggest sellers for their shelves. Mr Tchakalian said the big newsagent chains, which were absorbing more and more independents, were starting to do the same. The big retailers also charged publishers to carry their magazines, sometimes as much as $70,000 a year.


“The beauty of the Australian magazine market has always been that entry to it was reasonably uninhibited,” Mr Tchakalian said. “But if you start getting retail chains dictating what they will and won’t range, and charging for it, small publishers who don’t have the deep pockets [will be shut out].”


He said smaller publishers had to get more creative to build circulation. Strategies included increasing subscription sales, placing titles only in selected newsagents in demographically suitable areas instead of “distribution by the cannon method,” and finding alternative sources of sales such as selling a pet magazine through pet stores.

Cosmos publisher Luna Media was celebrating a haul of eight trophies ... Magazine of the Year, Best Small Publisher, Editor of the Year and Best Internet Site.

Meanwhile, Cosmos publisher Luna Media was celebrating a haul of eight trophies. In addition to its gong for Magazine of the Year, the company collected trophies for Best Small Publisher, Editor of the Year (for Cosmos’s Wilson da Silva) and Best Internet Site.


“We were delighted and, frankly, amazed to do so well,” said Luna Media’s publisher Kylie Ahern. “It shows that a commitment to excellence pays dividends. Luna Media may be small today, but we are innovative, ambitious and we are going places.”


Other Bell Awards winners included ETN Communications’ Fast Thinking (best business-to-business magazine with a print run greater than 15,000 copies); Key Media’s Mortgage Professional Australia (best business-to-business magazine with a print run below 15,000 copies); Haymarket Media’s FourFourTwo (best consumer magazine launch); the RACV’s Australian Business Auto (best business-to-business magazine launch); and Spa Life’s Spa Life (best consumer magazine with a print run less than 30,000 copies).

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