Popular magazines Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health and Women’s Health could be brought back to life by the end of the year under new license holders after being axed by private equity firm Mercury Capital three months ago.
Mercury, which bought the former owner of the magazines Bauer Media (now known as ARE Media) in July, shut down eight titles including NW, OK! and Elle to avoid signing long-term licensing deals with international publishing houses to save money.
Harper’s Bazaar had five months left to run on its contract with Bauer, while Men’s Health and Women’s Health contracts were expiring later this year. All three titles are licensed from Hearst Magazines in the US.
Hearst has been talking to multiple parties about deals that would allow the magazines to continue to be published in Australia. Negotiations were still underway last week. Industry sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Women’s Health and Men’s Health will likely be revived by a small publisher called Paragon Media.
Paragon Media is a special interest publisher that prints titles such as Australian Men’s Fitness and Ecogeneration. Paragon chief executive Ian Brooks confirmed the talks and said he was hopeful of finalising the deal.
“Men’s Health and Women’s Health are the strongest health and fitness brands in Australia and we have long recognised their unique value as a channel for advertisers,” he said. “These mastheads, in an expanded print and digital ecosystem, will continue to be important in this segment and we are hopeful that discussions can be concluded.”
Brag Media, the new publisher of Rolling Stone Australia, will also launch a new magazine in the next few weeks. It is unclear whether it will be a former title from ARE Media. ARE Media staff are currently de-commissioning Harper’s Bazaar while Hearst continues talks with prospective buyers.
Before closure, Harper’s Bazaar, which was printed for more than two decades, had an average readership of 177,000 per issue. Men’s Health had an average of 318,000 readers per print edition and Women’s Health had 268,000, according to figures from Enhanced Media Metrics Australia.
It is unclear when the new magazine titles will appear on newsagent and supermarket stands. Magazine publishers have been knocked during the coronavirus pandemic by a large reduction in spending from advertisers and many were forced to suspend the printing of titles and slash jobs. Bauer even tried to renegotiate the terms of its acquisition of Seven West Media’s magazine division Pacific. Almost 400 jobs in the magazine industry were lost in the first six months of the year.
The $40 million sale of Pacific to Bauer closed in May after a tumultuous few months. It meant popular titles such as New Idea, Marie Claire and That’s Life were brought into the same company as Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and Take 5! But shortly after the deal, the owners of Bauer decided to sell the entity to private equity, a move which prompted further job cuts and magazine closures.
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