Home' Australian Magazine Awards : 2009 Contents SPECIAL
22 AdNews 6 November 2009
HALL OF FAME
THE MAGAZINES HALL OF FAME HAS BEEN
ESTABLISHED AS PART OF THE AUSTRALIAN
MAGAZINE AWARDS. THE FIRST INDUCTEE IS
Name an innovative magazine launch in
Australia and the chances are strong John
Southam was the man behind it.
John Southam pioneered the distribution
of magazines in supermarkets and engi-
neered several of the most successful
magazine start-ups seen in this country,
including Australian Family Circle, Better
Homes & Gardens and Super Food Ideas.
With a career spanning almost 50 years
in publishing, it's hard to imagine anyone
who has done more for the magazine
industry. And he's not nished yet.
After joining Reader's Digest in 1960 as
a management trainee, he rose through the
ad sales ranks to become advertising sales
director & deputy managing director in
1970. He then negotiated with Woolworths
and Coles for them to stock Reader's Digest
at their checkouts, the rst time a magazine
was sold through Australian supermarkets.
Buoyed by this success he left the Digest
in 1972 and approached e New York Times
Magazine Group to set up in an Australian
operation. is led to the formation of
Family Circle Publications, with Southam as
Australian Family Circle was launched in
May 1973 with a guaranteed circulation
of 350,000 and distribution exclusively
through supermarkets and grocery stores. It
was an instant success but only after some
heavyweight advance planning.
John Sands had to buy extra printing
machinery and a national distribution
company had to be set up. Other publishers
and their distribution companies were
committed to the newsagency system, and
were not prepared to rock the boat by
supporting a competing system.
Southam hired 110 permanent sta to
handle distribution, assisted by more than
Guaranteed circulation was also a new
concept, and although the rst audit didn't
quite reach the guarantee, advertisers were
happy to take the credit on future bookings
rather than a cash refund.
Within a year Australian Family Circle
was the country's eighth highest circulating
Better Homes & Gardens followed in July
1978 with a guaranteed circulation of
250,000. Within a year it was ranked 10th
largest in Australia, while Family Circle had
risen to number six.
So why were these magazines so
successful? First and foremost, they were
ser vice magazines. ey helped people cope
with their everyday existence, showed them
how to do more with their cooking, sewing,
home improvement and so on¼ how to get
more out of life in achievable ways.
ªMost mass market magazines are
escapist,º says Southam. ª ere are maga-
zines that take you out of your life, into the
fantasy world of celebrities and show
business. On the other hand there are
magazines that take you into your life and
show you how to get more out of it.º
After 10 years e New York Times
Magazine Group commissioned Southam to
sell the Australian operation. e Adelaide
Advertiser bought it and he stayed on under
contract for a year. is was followed by two
years in advertising with Coudrey Dailey
and Young & Rubicam.
He was then lured to the US by e New
York Times to build a group of boating
publications based in Newport, Rhode
Island. Starting with Cruising World, he
launched Sailing Scene, a trade publication
for the sailing industry, and following the
purchase of Sailing World from the rival
North American Publishing Company, he
established the leading sailing publishing
group in the US.
Eight years there was followed by two
years as international licensing consultant
for e New York Times Magazine Group,
travelling the world to interest prospective
publishers of Family Circle, McCall's, Fitness,
Child and American Home Style magazines
in untapped markets.
On his return to Australia in 1996, he was
retained by Murdoch Magazines to consult
on magazines and books. However, he was
not to remain quiet for long.
Spotting a gap in the expanding food
market, Southam developed and launched
Super Food Ideas in a joint venture with
the Hannan Group. Southam had obser ved
that more and more food manufacturers
were promoting their products by
developing recipes around them. He felt
they would be interested in promoting
these recipes branded with their products.
Super Food Ideas was launched in 1998
and rapidly became the highest circulating
food magazine in Australia. It still holds that
position and is ranked seventh among all
magazines. After selling the magazine to
the Hannan Group in 2000, Southam stayed
on as consultant.
Four years ago he was approached by
the Swedish publisher Bonnier Corp to set
up a company to license its publications in
Australia. Two Bonnier titles, Popular
Science and Science Illustrated, are now
published here by W W Media, a company
chaired by Southam. More titles will follow,
So, is the future rosy for magazines? Most
de nitely, says Southam, who naturally sees
great potential for service-type magazines.
ª You need to provide a genuine ser vice
to the audience you seek to attract,º he says.
ªA service magazine should be a perpetual
You need to provide
a genuine service
to the audience
you seek to attract.
A service magazine
should be a perp-
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