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As Greenworld continues to celebrate 30 years of publishing, there have been dramatic changes occurring in mainstream gardening magazine circulations.
Falling circulation and plummeting ad revenue forced the closure in March of Burke’s Backyard magazine. The magazine was launched in June 1998 as a spin-off from the television show of the same name. Fifteen years on, the show has long gone and March 2013 was the final issue of the magazine.
Its closure follows that of the trade journal, Australian Horticulture. It folded last year after more than a century providing information to the nursery industry.
The closure of Burke’s Backyard magazine leaves ABC Gardening Australia magazine (which is monthly from News Ltd) and the quarterly Your Garden magazine (Pacific Publications) as the main specialist magazines serving consumer gardening.
The bi-monthly titles Organic Gardener (an ABC magazine) and Good Organic Gardening (Universal Magazines) continue to cater for organic gardeners – a niche market within gardening that seems to be booming.
There are also regional gardening magazines with local slants including SubTropical Gardening, which is based in Queensland.
Homemaker and design magazines also carry gardening and are catering for home gardeners who are also homemakers. Among the leaders of these, Better Homes & Gardens (Pacific Publications) is going from strength to strength, as is Australian House & Garden (formerly ACP and now Bauer Media).
But the growth of these titles doesn’t account for the tens of thousands of readers who have turned away from pure gardening magazines in the past few years. For some it is a financial choice, but for others it is generational. Some readers have turned away from gardening magazines because gardeners like others are time poor. Much of it is because people are not shopping the way they used to.
Specialist magazines have become more expensive mostly due to increases in paper, printing and distribution costs. But as their cover prices have gone up, less advertising content has seen their book sizes fall. With fewer pages, they no longer look like value for money the way non-specialist magazines do which are often two or even three times the size of specialist magazines.
As well, specialist garden magazines traditionally appeal to an older demographic. Not only are these traditional readers downsizing (and dying), they’ve been hit by huge drops in their superannuation and erosion of their savings. For many, cutting out their favourite garden magazine has been a matter of survival - not to mention the pressing need to fund internet access, pay television and even international travel.
Even hoarding has played its role in some people’s decision to not buy. Many magazine readers report they re-read past copies of the magazine to get advice on what to do in their garden each month. That’s really taking the recycling message to heart!
As well as failing to value the up-to-date information specialist magazines contain, many prefer the more generalist, easy-on-the-eye approach of lifestyle magazines and television.
Technological advances have also accounted for many readers as more and more households have computers, tablets and wi fi access at home. Why buy ABC Gardening Australia magazine when you can see the television show on iView any time of the day or night, download an episode from the Gardening Australia television website or browse the huge bank of factsheets also on offer through the website?
As more people get on line and discover the benefits and companionship of social media, time once spent relaxing with a magazine is now taken up by Facebook, Twitter, reading blogs or browsing the World Wide Web. Talk to your customers about their reading habits. We’d love to hear where they go to get trustworthy garden information in this modern age.
In the meantime, Greenworld is on a mission to provide garden centres, landscapers and horticulturists with the most up-to-date information and ideas to help you to communicate with customers, clients and gardeners. And, we’ll continue to bring you that information in magazine format as well as online!