Bulletin closure signals end of generalist magazines

The closure of Australia’s longest-running magazine, The Bulletin, marks the end of the generalist magazine, says forecaster Phil Ruthven from IBISWorld.

The magazine’s publisher ACP Magazines – part of the PBL Media empire part-owned by James Packer – announced earlier today that The Bulletin edition that went on sale yesterday would be its last.

The 128-year old magazine has been an institution in Australian publishing, says ACP chief executive Scott Lorson. He blamed “the impact of the internet” on the magazine’s demise. Circulation figures of 57,039 are half of the more than 100,000 the magazine enjoyed in the mid 1990s.

In a statement, Lorson says: “We have invested heavily in the title with top editorial, photographic and design staff who have been devoted to making The Bulletin the best of its genre. However, despite our best efforts, the magazine has simply not been commercially viable for some time.

“With limited prospects for improvement, the time has come to make a very tough decision.”

Political columnist Laurie Oakes told ABC radio today that it was a very sad day and that Kerry Packer would be rolling in his grave. “He would be very upset,” he says.

Ruthven says Kerry Packer could never bring himself to close The Bulletin. He says that the magazine had been kept alive through nostalgia and not for good business reasons.

He says the passing of the magazine is also significant because it could signal the start of the end of the generalist magazine.

“Generalist magazines are in their twilight years. And The Bulletin was the most general of the generalists on the shelf,” he says. “We are now in the age of specialisation. When The Bulletin was born there were very few magazines around. But now there are car magazines, cooking magazines – and of course the internet has exacerbated this problem because you can find things when you want them in so much more depth.”

He says Time magazine has been struggling for a long time. “That’s pretty thin,” he says.

The Bulletin’s fate has hung in the balance since private equity company CVC Capital Partners paid $4.5 billion to Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting for 50% of PBL in October last year.

At the time sources told SmartCompany that James Packer had given the directive not to close the bleeding magazine for at least a year, as he did not want its demise associated with the Packer family. CVC subsequently increased its stake to 75%.

It is believed several publishers have looked at The Bulletin for a potential purchase, but to no avail. The issue published this week will be the last.


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