When I was a tweenager, that wonderful age that sees you teetering on the verge of almost-adulthood, there was, what I like to call, a magazine rite of passage. It began with Dolly at around age 11. Dolly was all about celebrity crush quizzes, tips on how to ask that cute boy out, and ‘Dolly Doctor’ segments that saw distraught young girls writing – yes, physically posting a letter to the Dolly office, it was 2001 after all – their greatest hopes, dreams and fears for every Dolly reader to see. It’s an awkward time, those pre-pubescent years, but Dolly guided us through it by letting us know we weren’t alone.
Then came Cleo. The more ‘mature’ magazine. You graduated to Cleo around 14 and, in doing so, felt one step closer to those much envied post high school years. Cleo took the relationship and sex talk up a notch, but also threw in career advice and lifestyle tips. As satisfying as it was to be able to look down on the younger, more immature Dolly readers, Cleo was, in a sense, the forgotten middle child; sandwiched between Dolly and Cosmopolitan. Even back then, while I was reading Cleo, I remember wondering when I would graduate to Cosmo, which is why today’s announcement came as little surprise to me.
Today Bauer Media confirmed the closure of Cleo, with the March edition to be its last. This announcement was coupled with a shift in focus for Dolly magazine, which will be re-launched as a bi-monthly “digital first property”. Mobile video, social media and restructured digital editorial will be at the heart of this shift, with Bauer citing Dolly and Cosmo as the two titles to lead their young women’s portfolio into the future. It’s an interesting time for print, and yet another example of the impact of digital on traditional media.
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulation
While many will be quick to shout “print is dead!” upon hearing this news, I prefer to offer a more hesitant “print is dead… sort of?” Yes, Cleo magazine may be dead, but many titles aren’t. In fact, the foodie craze has given magazines such as Coles, Fresh and Taste a readership boost, with Coles boasting an impressive readership of 14.4% of Australians aged 14+*. What makes these magazines successful? They’ve found their audience. Unfortunately for Cleo, they fell victim to the kids getting older younger trend, which has seen children and young adults consuming media at a much younger age.
While Bauer says the target audience for Cleo is women aged 18-24, and Cosmo targets women aged 18-35, there is a huge amount of crossover between the two. If I was reading Cleo at 14 and Cosmo at 17, it stands to reason that today’s teenagers are reading Cosmo at an even younger age, eliminating the need for Cleo altogether.
So, while the end of Cleo doesn’t mark the end of print media as a whole, it does mark the end of an era; an era that began with Ita Buttrose at the helm, and fostered the careers of many great Australian media personalities, including Lisa Wilkinson, Mia Freedman and Deborah Thomas. So to Cleo I say goodbye – thank you for the many hours spent reading your articles, laughing at your stories, and noting your advice.
*Source: Roy Morgan Australian Magazine Readership, September 2014-September 2015
Sam Kane is a Media Coordinator at BCM