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Driving revenues on the Australian Newsstand: 3 Key strategies for publishers to exploit

The Australian newsstand weathered the pandemic well with strong sales reported during the peak of the pandemic. Marketforce’s Australian based territory manager, Danielle Gannan, believes there is still more potential for UK publishers to unlock in the market.

By Danielle Gannan

Driving revenues on the Australian Newsstand: 3 Key strategies for publishers to exploit

The Australian magazine market is one of the largest export markets for UK publishers, consistently delivering strong sales for UK titles. The Australian newsstand is unusual in that it retains a push distribution model to a market that is still dominated by independent newsagents, representing 46% of total market RSV, and 79% of UK import title RSV.

As the Covid-19 pandemic impacted Australia in 2020, the newsagent channel was fortunate to be deemed an essential service. Many newsagents remained open and were a vital part in supporting local communities during the periods of hard lockdown. Magazine sales remained steady during this period despite severe restrictions, interstate and international border closures and major supply chain issues across the country. At the height of the pandemic, the grocery channel saw growth in magazine sales as Australian consumers turned to magazines to entertain and inform them. This response from the public should not come as a surprise, as Australians continue to rank amongst the highest consumers of magazines per capita in the world. Over 11 million Australians aged 14+ (52.4%) now read print magazines, an increase of 1.4% from a year agoi.

However, the pandemic was not so kind to domestic Australian publishers, precipitating the closure of some of the largest magazine brands in Australia such as the local editions of Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE and InStyle, Men’s Health Australia, Women’s Health Australia, Good Health as well as mass weeklies NW and OK! Australia. The subsequent market contraction accelerated by Covid presents an even greater opportunity for special interest and niche titles to help fill the gap and sate the appetites of Australian readers. This is born out in the latest market data that shows readers’ appetites for major domestic weeklies and monthlies continues to wane. Latest data shows unit sales of women’s weekly titles have declined by 36% over the past four years reducing their market share from 54% to 51.5%.ii These sales declines underperform the total market performance during this time, cementing the fact that magazine consumers are looking for the more specialised niche product.

There are three key areas that publishers should consider when developing their strategies to maximise sales in Australia:

  1. Understand the retail landscape and plan accordingly. Independent newsagents provide a viable and cost-effective route to market. Partner with a distributor that is best placed to understand the latest market landscape and that has the local presence to secure the widest retailer acceptance. This will provide your titles with a strong base to demonstrate sales potential and to potentially expand into other channels.
  2. Australian grocers operate highly restricted ranges, however recent success from UK publishers in the Weekly, Children’s, Health and Wellness, Craft and Special Interest categories has made the domestic grocery buyers more open to UK import titles. High barriers to entry remain, with new titles needing to deliver over $40,000 RSV per issue to be considered for listings, however there are clear strategies to demonstrate potential which distributors with local resource can help publishers to exploit.

  3. Relevant content that will draw attention and deliver impulse sales: Establish where the demand lies and where the publishing gaps exist. Latest data shows that 19% of the market is showing strong YOY growth across Children’s, Leisure & Lifestyle, Music, Current Affairs and Puzzle sectors. Keep regular focus on launches and closures to monitor the publishing environment. Make sure you understand these sector dynamics and what the local consumers want and where your product can offer a USP to a retailer. It is demonstrated that special interest customers buy more magazines than the regular shopper buying the domestic weeklies; this will improve the attractiveness of the category and help improve overall performance.
  4. Support your titles through good use of the marketing mix; ensure your pricing not only encourages trial but also delivers strong revenues throughout the supply chain. Import titles enjoy a different price elasticity to domestic titles that can be exploited to drive revenue, so long as the consumer can appreciate the value offer. Increasingly, publishers are using their online audiences to drive newsstand sales; make sure you engage your Australian audiences around any new launch activity to drive footfall.

The Australian market remains one that offers exciting opportunities for UK publishers. British magazines deliver fantastic editorial propositions and product quality that is second to none. In a market that continues to show its love for print and where domestic publishing is shrinking, this represents a great opportunity for publishers to develop new, sustainable audiences for their content via the newsstand.

i Roy Morgan Australian Readership report for 12 months to December 2021.

ii Are Direct EDI Total Market Data

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