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Australian men’s magazine the Picture and the 69-year-old People magazine will close at the end of the year, ending decades of printed weeklies featuring topless models and readers’ sex stories.
Their publisher, Bauer Media, was forced to axe the magazines after retailers lined up to ban them from sale at service stations; and readership fell to 0.02% of the population over 14 for People magazine and 0.01% for the Picture. They are already banned from sale in supermarkets.
“Discussions to close the Picture and People magazines have been taking place, as the magazines have lost ranging [visibility], which has affected their commercial viability,” a spokeswoman for Bauer Media told Guardian Australia.
“As closures impact a number of people, including some staff and suppliers, they need to be well considered and timed appropriately.
“The magazines will be closing at the end of the year and we’re working closely with staff to find suitable redeployment.”
Bauer decided to close the two magazines after hundreds of Australian service stations run by 7-Eleven and BP removed them from sale after complaints they demeaned women and girls.
The Twitter accounts for the two magazines were shut down on Tuesday after Guardian Australia approached Bauer for comment.
The magazines are still on sale in other convenience stories, including Coles Express and newsagents, but the number of retail outlets is shrinking.
“M+ rated magazines will no longer be stocked at our 350 company owned stores across Australia,” BP said.
BP’s statement followed a decision by the 7-Eleven chief executive, Angus McKay, last month to order all 700 franchisees and store managers to urgently pull the magazines from sale.
“The material does not fit within the values of 7-Eleven,” McKay said. “That is why we made the decision to remove these products from our stores.”
The Picture and People are the the latest in a long line of Australian print magazines to fold owing to sluggish sales and low advertising revenue in the digital era.
But the magazines had the added ordure of selling softcore pornography and smutty jokes in a retail setting visited by children – because they were classified as general interest magazines and not pornography.
The classifications system says they are not explicit enough to be in a restricted category, which would confine them to sex shops, despite headlines including X rated Aussie Teens and MILF Mania.
The X-Rated Aussie Teens edition featured topless young women next to quotes such as: “‘It’s fair to say a bit of pain turns me on’, this barely legal teen confessed. ‘Things like light biting and spanking – and hard spanking feels great’.”
The women’s campaigner Melinda Liszewski from the Collective Shout targeted 7-Eleven on social media last month after coming across a magazine that sexualised and fetishised teenage girls.
“The presence of these magazines in regular retail stores normalises the sexism and misogyny promoted on its front page for a young audience, still developing their sense of right and wrong and their understanding of what respectful relationships look like,” Liszewski told Guardian Australia.
“Today we saw media about the private schoolboys chanting misogynistic songs on a bus. Many have asked, ‘Where did they learn that?’ Magazines like Picture and People are a part of the problem.”
According to the latest readership figures from Roy Morgan, People magazine is read by 41,000 people aged 14 and over and the Picture by just 31,000 people.
The sales figures are no longer publicly available after their former publisher ACP Magazines withdrew the men’s weeklies from the circulation audit in 2012 after their sales plunged.
Seven years ago People reported a drop in circulation of almost 31% over the quarter, taking its average sales to fewer than 28,000 copies a week. No sales figures have been made available since 2012.
The Picture slid 29% to an average of 37,663 copies a week over the quarter. This compares with the popular women’s magazine the Australian Women’s Weekly, which sold 465,000 monthly in 2012.
In 2019 the most widely read paid magazines are Better Homes & Gardens and Women’s Weekly, which have readerships of 1.6m and 1.5m respectively.
A niche news magazine like the Monthly has a readership of 1.3% or 151,000, according to Roy Morgan.
People has been published in Australia since 1950 and the Picture since 1988.
Since Kerry Packer’s ACP Magazines was sold by Nine Entertainment for $500m in 2012, several titles have had their editorial teams merged and others closed entirely, including Cleo, Top Gear, Zoo, Madison, Grazia, Burke’s Backyard, BBC Good Food FHM and Cosmopolitan.
This week Bauer Media acquired Seven West Media’s Pacific Magazines, which publishes Better Homes & Gardens, New Idea and Marie Claire.