Ah Grazia. Has there been another Australian fashion magazine which attracted as much kvetching from the get go? Frockwriter can’t think of one – and nor can Australia’s most high profile media analyst, Fusion Strategy’s Steve Allen. Launched on July 21st amidst a blaze of hype, and a A$7million marketing campaign, the knives were out for the mag by mid September, with reports of slow newsagency sales and word on the street that Grazia publisher Australian Consolidated Press “won’t remotely” make its November audit target of 70,000+ copies. Then last month came reports of ACP retrenchments and further speculation that 150 jobs at the PBL parent, in addition to some magazines – notably Grazia – may be under review. Which speculation prompted this opinion piece from frockwriter. The latest rumour? That Grazia is about to go monthly. Flatly denied by ACP. Now comes news that an internal ACP audit [correction: preliminary independent audit according to the ABC] of 10 issues of Grazia will be included in the Audit Bureau of Circulations' September 30 audit. The results are embargoed until midnight Thursday 13th November.
The latter information was delivered to ABC subscribers, including Steve Allen, on Tuesday morning.
Although obviously unable to release the information, Allen told this blog that in spite of the fact that it’s a mere publisher’s statement, it is nevertheless an encouraging sign for the magazine.
[UPDATE 13/11/08 @ 12.16pm. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, this is not a publisher’s statement, but a "preliminary" ABC audit of 10 issues - preliminary, due to the fact that Grazia had not been publishing for the normal 13 week cycle].
“If it was going to be dire, they just wouldn’t audit” Allen told frockwriter on Tuesday morning.
It was in fact an abrupt volte face from our conversation late Monday afternoon, during which Allen reiterated sentiments that he had previously expressed in The Australian, that the industry buzz was that Grazia was not doing well.
“All the other publishers are saying they’ve seen scan data results” said Allen. “Noone will go on the record. It could be that the industry is ganging up on ACP. They’re saying they haven’t got a hope in help of reaching their target, but I have no idea”.
I had phoned Allen to hear his thoughts on the monthly edition theory – to which Allen replied that although in 30 years tracking the Australian publishing industry, he could think of publications which had increased their publishing frequency, he was at a loss to recall anyone going the other way (obviously overlooking The Australian Women's Weekly, which became a monthly in 1983).
Noted Allen on Monday, “We’re going into a small recession and feeding a weekly title that has a rate card set in our view at around 100,000 copies and if it’s half that or less, it’s just a mouse you can’t feed in a downturn. So it wouldn’t surprise us (if Grazia went monthly). And we could see how they could rationalise their decision, but to us that would be really declaring defeat, we couldn’t believe then that they had got to their target. If they had got to their target they would produce evidence of their circulation. And they have produced none. We’ve always doubted that they could find a gap in the market for the numbers that they were talking about. So perhaps we are a bit negative. But everything that we are told suggests that they’re battling”.
He added, “The way they’re handling this, they’re either supremely naïve or there’s the biggest amount of bitchiness in the market that we’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen a rival publisher that will say anything positive”.
In light of the new ABC September 30 audit information however, those rival publishers will now have to “put up or shut up” according to Allen.
When asked if ACP was considering changing Grazia’s frequency, ACP spokeswoman Hannah Devereux told frockwriter:
"Grazia is a weekly magazine and will not be going monthly".
Now while Devereux is obviously au fait with what’s happening with the Australian edition of the magazine, as a general statement about Grazia, FYI the latter does not appear to be entirely correct.
Grazia was originally launched in Italy in 1938.
According to the websites of the magazine's various coeditions however, almost half of Grazia’s now 12-strong international lineup (which includes both English and Arabic editions of Grazia Middle East), does not in fact publish weekly. The Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and even, incredulously, Indian, editions publish monthly. Grazia Croatia is published bi-weekly.
Evidently those publishers are a little less bullish than ACP.