Is the era of physical magazines over?

Cleo announces closure after 44 years in print with more likely to close

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We’ve already seen the hatchet job the internet has done on newspapers – now magazines are following a similar trend.

Today, Bauer Media Group announced that Cleo magazine will close, after 44 years in print, and it’s looking at relaunching another magazine, Dolly, in purely digital format.

According to media reports (digital of course), the print edition of Dolly is certain to follow Cleo and stop print runs. Bauer shut down its lad’s mags Zoo Weekly in September 2015 following FHM which closed in 2012.

The Daily Telegraph is also reporting that sources have suggested a possible merger between Woman’s Day and the Australian Women’s Weekly could take place.

Cleo will release its last issue, the March edition on February 22. The magazine was launched by Kerry Packer and Ita Buttrose in 1972 and was considered edgy and controversial at the time, featuring male nude centrefolds and articles on sex and dating tips.

What has killed the magazines is the internet. Magazine content is virtually outdated once it has been edited, reviewed, published and distributed to resellers – a process that can take many weeks. With the internet, consumers have access to real-time information, stories and articles from multiple sources with different opinions and views almost instantly.

That has meant falling readership for magazines, and even though they seem to be mostly advertising these days (try counting the pages of advertising in Better Homes and Gardens – more than 100 the last time I counted), that can’t cover the cost to produce them.

Seven West Media Ltd (ASX: SWM) owns Pacific Magazines – Australia’s number two magazine published behind Bauer Media – and publisher of Better Homes and Gardens as well as New Idea, Men’s Health, Who and marie claire amongst others. But revenues for magazines fell last year by 8% to $209.2 million. 9 years ago, in 2006, Magazines made $241 million in revenues, so the downtrend is clear to see, despite the company claiming strong readership and market share.

Market share means virtually nothing if the whole market is getting smaller and heading to virtually nothing much like Fairfax Media Limited (ASX: FXJ) and News Corp (ASX: NWS) have found with their metropolitan print newspaper businesses.

Foolish takeaway

It seems clear that many magazines are destined to become digital only or wither away and die.

  Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned.聽You can follow Mike on Twitter聽@TMFKinga Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering adiverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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