The loss of Bauer

I’ve spent many moments trawling the pages of my favourite fashion magazine, dreaming up ways to get my hands on the fashion within.  

I always flick through a magazine first. Looking at the pictures, captions, titles and layout.

I read the spine notes, always identifying the journalists, photographers, models and contributors on each page. I look at the layout of the photos to text and how aesthetically pleasing it all reads.  Then I will go back over again from back to front before choosing the most interesting articles to read first. Only after that will I read the magazine cover to cover.

I have always loved the editorials, stopping to dream or imagine that I could one day write for such a publication.

I drool over the most expensive pieces of NZ fashion while at the same time secretly proud that New Zealanders are creating content and fashion that is comparable to that on the world stage.

We all have our favourite magazines. And Fashion Quarterly was mine.

This past week has seen Bauer Media NZ close its doors.  With it the sad loss of many jobs for employees and freelance contributors who have serviced Bauer’s popular publications for decades.

The decline of print media and the unavailable revenue from inactive advertisers during this surreal Covid-19 lock-down, has been cited as the main reasons for the closure.  

Undoubtedly we are all devastated, but not surprised. So many media giants all around the world have had to move with the times to combat the loss of print media in a time where online journalism has precedence.

Simon Wilson from the NZ Herald wrote about the loss in his article “Why the end of Bauer magazines is a blow to everyone.”

He wrote “The Listener is no more. Along with Metro, North & South, Woman’s Day, NZ Woman’s Weekly and a host of other magazines. All gone, with the sudden announcement from Bauer Media NZ that it is shutting down, immediately, and will not start up again.”

“We have lost so much and we will lose more, because where Bauer goes, others will follow. The company’s CEO, Brendon Hill, made the reason clear enough: the Covid-19 crisis has destroyed Bauer’s advertising support.”

Bauer’s CEO Brendon Hill went on to say “”Publishing in New Zealand is very dependent on advertising revenue and it is highly unlikely that demand will ever return to pre-crisis levels.”

Even our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was “gutted” that Bauer Media was closing its doors.

I’ve always had a subscription to Fashion Quarterly. Sometimes I paid for it myself. Sometimes I would receive a subscription as a gift and other times my Flybuys rewards would pay for the pleasure I felt when reading the magazine.  Each time it would arrive in my letterbox, I would wait until I had a quiet moment alone to relax and show it the love it deserved.  I can only imagine how proud everyone who worked there was each time an issue was published. It truly was a piece of art.

I can’t remember when I first started coveting Fashion Quarterly magazines but it must be around 20 years ago. They are a favourite of my selfish things to buy and indulge in.

Likewise Listener and Metro always provided quality articles with intriguing, relevant and questioning journalism which contributors produced to a high standard. I was proud to be a New Zealander when reading these articles and learned a lot from them.

I feel sad that Fashion Quarterly was just becoming more ethical in regards to sustainable fashion and longevity of clothing. They were looking to explore other areas of fashion in New Zealand, such as renting, vintage, second-hand and fashion culture that was produced in a sustainable way that was meant to last. This was exciting for so many of us interested in this field.  Fashion Quarterly didn’t really get the chance to explore this new avenue fully and sadly never will.

Welcome Back Slow Fashion Owner Dianne Ludwig has been pondering the closure with many thoughts clouding her mind.

She says “Bauer shutting up shop not [only] represents a loss of jobs in publishing and incomes for many freelancers, but it will result in the disappearance of local content.   And somewhat ironically this comes at a time when local community and local stories are even more important.”

“Fashion Quarterly Editor Zoe Walker, was one of our industries strongest advocates for championing to buy local and buy sustainable.  In its 40 years history Fashion Quarterly established itself as a premium fashion publication – New Zealand and luxury fashion brands all part of its mix.  For local brands featuring in Fashion Quarterly was always important and it helped cement the fashion credentials of many local labels. Our fashion industry doesn’t have the advertising or public relations budgets of the large international labels so Fashion Quarterly was able to tilt the playing field to give our local labels a chance.”

Like Dianne said, many established local designers and up and coming designers will no longer have an equitable world-class platform in which to launch or display their designs.  It will be interesting to see how many New Zealand labels and fashion houses will be affected. 

Dianne continues “With the Covid-19 lock-down you have to wonder how many of the local fashion businesses and manufacturing will survive.  Now with local fashion stores closed and most not allowed to ship online orders, it’s just got harder still.  With their racks full of winter stock and overheads continuing to tick over these local labels need New Zealander’s buying local fashion.  Who will help tell their stories, which sell the clothes?  Ironically under our current lock-down the fashion currently being shipped into New Zealand is imported fast fashion.  Glassons who don’t make locally, are still shipping, as of course are all the large international brands, locally made labels stand little chance.” 

A good friend and fashion teacher Charlotte Remmerswaal, has been collecting, saving, reading and inspiring many of her students with her favourite magazines for over a decade.  She says “I’m absolutely gutted. I’ve been collecting these for 11+ years and they are all in pristine condition. Not only were these inspirations for myself but as visual images for my classroom and students. At least I can look back in years to come at a great magazine that represented New Zealand culture. I’m actually really gutted.”

I also asked Wendyl Nissen, former Editor of the NZ Woman’s Day, for her thoughts on the sad saga and she replied:

“This morning I decided to get a new tattoo. It would be just two words: Woman’s Day. In the early 90’s my first editor’s job was caring for that magazine because the Australians had finally decided it could have its own New Zealand edition. It went on to be the top selling women’s magazine in New Zealand history.  With the closure of Bauer NZ, Woman’s Day will still be available here but it will be the Australian edition, all that hard work convincing the Aussies we had our own unique culture down the toilet. Gone too are icons NZ Woman’s Weekly which I also edited and the Listener which my husband edited. My only hope is that Bauer saves the archives and gives them to the National Library – decades of New Zealand culture and history are in them.I think there is more to be told about why this happened and I will watch as it slowly floats to the surface.Meanwhile I mourn. I’ve gone through shock and sadness, now I’m just angry.”

Sadness, shock and anger will no doubt face the many professionals who have not only been left without jobs and income, but a passion for the work that they loved.

These days online content seems to overrun physical publications.   It appears we would rather be on Facebook and Instagram, or watching Tik Tok or Youtube videos.  We read memes, watch videos on absolutely anything, follow online bloggers, share poorly researched and incorrect information and rely on the internet for our news. 

With many media companies working hard to provide a parallel online digital presence, it seems this is the way of the future and has been going that way for a long time.  Online subscription services help to cover the loss from physical advertisers and pay employees for their journalism, but in no way covers all the costs. Online readers who complain or moan about having to ‘pay for their news’ only fail to understand that this is the way it must be if they want online content at all.  Without premium content helping to cover costs there is no way print media would survive.

This past week we have lost so many household favourites. The Listener, Metro, Next, Fashion Quarterly, NZ Woman’s Weekly, Women’s Day NZ and many more that we have grown up reading or seeing our friends and family enjoying.  Iconic reading material that either provided hard-hitting, up to date and relevant world journalism delivered on a national level or escapism from everyday life while being privy to exploring and viewing the lives of others.  

These magazines connected us to so many other people, countries and events.

Each publication was a masterpiece of graphic design and highly produced content.

Even showing up to the doctors or any other reception area, there were small moments of joy at being able to stop, pick up a magazine and have a quick read before appointments. I guess we will be all on our phones even more now.

The loss of magazines has been in the pipeline for ages.  Many of us do have our favourites but how many of us actually still purchase physical magazines if we weren’t already receiving them on subscription?

Perhaps someone else will snap up these magazines? Could individual media companies or new style companies snaffle up the magazines in the areas they are interested in and somehow manage to continue to produce a physical magazine alongside online content? Perhaps then some titles could survive? Bauer Media NZ definitely had a lot more to do with moving some of their publications content online, to drive interest and to keep up with our technologically saturated lives.

Time will tell as this Covid-19 pandemic plays out just what will happen to print media in the future.

I only hope some of these Bauer titles will make a fresh come back either online and/or in print, to continue to document New Zealand interest and culture for years to come.

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