Magazines aren’t dead; long live magazines



The ‘death of print’ is overblown. Brands are growing custom magazine circulations to engage consumers, move stock and build loyalty. James Perkins investigates.

Here at Zakazukha, we make custom magazines for clients.

And we’re good at it.

We’ve won awards for the Mercedes-Benz Gold Coast magazine MBGC, we help Choice Homes sell house and land with Urban Appeal, and there have been many more in between.

Sometimes, when I tell my friends that part of my job is creating magazines for clients, they ask why.

“Who is reading magazines anymore? Isn’t everyone online?”

These discussions can go on for a while. My answer is, yes, people are consuming information online, but magazines are a classic, and they will never go out of style.

This is more than an intuitive feeling, or a projection of my own preference for the printed product.

Magazine readership is increasing in Australia. Yes, you read that right. It is especially the case for branded content.

Where people are getting confused is the difference between newspapers and magazines.

It is widely accepted that newspaper circulations are in terminal decline. As this structural trend plays out, mastheads are doing their best to manage the transition from printed products to online publications.

Magazines, however, are different.

They offer a timeless, visual and tactile experience; instead of being thrown in the recycling a day after purchase, they are put on the coffee table, or the shelf. And they are re-read.

Recently, Roy Morgan released its print readership figures for Australian Newspapers and Magazines for the year to June 2017.

It showed print newspaper circulation declining for both metro and regional newspapers, while online readership increased.

What it also showed was that magazine readership increased, led by branded magazines from Coles and Woolworths.

In fact, 10 of Australia’s top 15 magazine titles increased readership in the 12 months to June 2017, and 29.5% of the Australian population read a magazine during that time.


The common story of these magazines is that each is a corporate publication. While many commercial titles suffered slight drops in readership, National Geographic enjoyed a 1.3% boost to a readership 1.1 million people.

Overall, Roy Morgan says the magazine category has undergone long-term growth, including year on year category growth of 5.6 per cent, largely on the back of the supermarket titles.

As Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan Research says:

“Over the past year Roy Morgan has emphasised an increasing trend impacting many industries in Australia – the move to an ‘experience economy’ as consumers move away from traditional notions of ‘ownership’. The pleasant experience of reading your favourite glossy still retains widespread appeal.”

It is not just branded magazines that are enjoying strong readership growth – so are the glossy magazines that are inserted in newspapers (work that one out).

Why are Coles and Woolworths and motoring bodies in Queensland and Victoria making growing print readership such a priority?

It’s a bit old now, but an Australia Post survey from 2012 can give us some clues. It found some incredible results in favour of custom magazines, including:

  • 95% of people who were sent a magazine recalled receiving it within the publishing cycle;
  • 81% of people had read their (custom) magazine in the last two months;
  • 74% of people read their magazine immediately upon arrival;
  • 88% of people read their magazine up to 5 times;
  • An average of 2.3 different people read a copy of the magazine;
  • Nearly 80% of respondents recommended their magazine to a friend or colleague;
  • Custom magazines were read for 40 minutes on average;

Magazines are better than catalogues

There is one thing we can safely say without referring to a research report, and that is: magazines are better than catalogues. People will flip through a catalogue with an eye for a deal, while they will engage with a magazine.

The distinction is obvious when considering the supermarket magazines. Rather than simply teasing consumers with low prices, Coles and Woolworths can encourage consumers to buy more carrots by providing a delicious carrot cake recipe.

But it doesn’t have to be either-or when considering catalogue or custom magazine. As you can see with MBGC and a similar publication for the Mercedes-Benz Parramatta dealership, we insert the Certified pre-owned vehicles catalogue into the magazine. It gives your customers a reason to read the catalogue.

Magazines are engaging

Engagement is a real buzzword right now, but it really is what we are all striving for. Our social media experts measure engagement time in seconds; custom magazines engage readers for much longer. That is priceless immersion in a brand, and in stories aligned with your brand.

A 2014 report from FIPP Insight, Proof of Performance, Making the case for magazine media, showed that magazines have an exceptionally engaged audience.

Chris Llewellyn, FIPP CEO, says, “magazines, compared to most other media, have the most intimate and engaged relationship with their audience; their audience trusts them more than any other medium; advertising is seen as a core part of a magazine offering, and accordingly that they deliver brilliant ROI’s for their advertisers.”

Magazines have a high return on investment

Social and digital media has brought a new level of accountability to marketing – all that datum arrives real time, to be measured and analysed and acted upon.

That isn’t possible with printed products. Unless you include a call to action with an action providing a measureable output, for example, a one-off phone number or code.

It’s not easy to judge return on advertising spend for magazines, but last year Neilsen Catalina Solutions did just that. The study, out of the USA, found that magazines deliver the highest return on advertising spend (ROAS) of any form of media.

The average return of US$394 for every dollar spent on advertising was well above display (US$2.63), which was in second place.

As Britta Cleveland, SVP, Research Solutions, Meredith Corporation, said, “We know magazine advertising works, and now we have the numbers to see how it stacks up.”

And one more thing …

Magazines are cool. A well-designed and edited product on high-quality stock is a beautiful thing – it is a work of art. It is the ultimate in branding. It is giving back to your customers through an interesting and informative product that can become a keepsake.

So next time people are discussing the so-called death of print, take a moment to consider whether that really applies to magazines. This whole doomsday scenario is overblown; there will always be a place for a magazine on the coffee table. An iPad is just not the same.