One month ago Bauer closed all its New Zealand mags, including Woman’s Day. This week a new issue of Woman’s Day went on the shelves. What’s going on?
After a five-week absence, a major women’s magazine produced by Bauer has returned to New Zealand supermarkets and subscribers’ letterboxes. At first glance, it appears to be the Woman’s Day of old – royals grace the cover, with Newshub presenter Susie Nordqvist and her baby in one corner, and “Kiwi stars at home” in another.
But despite magazines being allowed to publish again under alert level three, Woman’s Day as we know it has not returned. The title’s dozens of former staff last week were allowed back into their Auckland offices, along with their colleagues from magazines such as the Listener, North & South and Fashion Quarterly, but only to clear out their belongings, in the presence of staff from EY, the company tasked with winding down the operation, who checked bags as the now redundant employees left.
New Zealand’s Woman’s Day was one of the titles shut down by international magazine giant Bauer as it dramatically exited the country in early April. The returning Woman’s Day is in fact the Australian version of the magazine, produced in Sydney, with a few New Zealand stories included to make a “local edition”. To a casual buyer at the supermarket, there would have been no indication they were in effect buying a different magazine.
While a fair amount of the magazine’s content is focused on royalty and international celebrities, there are large clues that it was written with Australian readers in mind – Aussie cricketers and reality TV stars, few of whom would be familiar to New Zealand readers, feature, and Australian phone numbers and prices in Australian dollars appear in advertorial and lifestyle content. The editor’s letter on the first page makes no mention of it being a New Zealand edition – it’s simply republished from the Australian version. The email address and website at the bottom of the page end in .com.au, and the Facebook page is WomansDayAus.
Former New Zealand Woman’s Day staff have told The Spinoff the two local articles were completed in New Zealand, by the New Zealand team, before Bauer pulled the pin, and have now appeared in the different publication. As owner of the content, Bauer has every right to do that, one former staffer told The Spinoff, but on top of the sudden mass redundancies, it stuck in the craw.
“It’s weird seeing our work from five weeks ago suddenly appear like that in a magazine we didn’t know was happening,” said the staffer, who noted that sooner rather than later, any left-over local content from the New Zealand operation would run dry. “There has been no indication that Bauer Australia will be looking to use former staffers in New Zealand for their Kiwi content,” she added.
“Friends have been texting saying, ‘Yay, it’s back,’ because they’ve seen it at the supermarket and assume we’ve got our jobs back.”
Woman’s Day is not the only Bauer magazine reappearing on New Zealand shelves this week. An update for subscribers to Woman’s Day, The Australian Women’s Weekly NZ and Lucky Break on subscription site magshop.co.nz reads, “We are very pleased to share that the publishing of these magazines has transferred to our sister company and, with the pending change to Covid Level 3, your home delivery will resume”, followed by the relevant dates. Deliveries of both Woman’s Day and Lucky Break have restarted this week, with the first edition of Australian Women’s Weekly NZ (confusingly, a monthly magazine with, before the shutdown, a New Zealand editor and small staff base in Auckland) being sent out on May 21.
In a statement, Bauer said that New Zealand Woman’s Day, Lucky Break, and the Australian Women’s Weekly NZ are not part of the Bauer NZ sale process, and have been kept under Bauer Media Group ownership. They will continue to be published.
“It is our intention that they will continue to have a mix of local and international editorial content. We are currently working on plans for future local content.”
Lyn Barnes, the former programme director of magazine journalism at AUT, said it was devastating for readers to lose the local aspects of these publications. “They fill a void in people’s lives and that escapism is even more important in our lives now,” she said.
The reason given by Bauer NZ for its closure was the temporary ban on publishing that came after the government deemed magazines to not be an essential service. While much of the criticism of that decision related to current affairs magazines like Metro, the Listener and North & South, Barnes said women’s magazines really mattered to readers, particularly at a time like this. “People may mock women’s magazines but they serve important roles. Like any magazine, the women’s titles offer that opportunity to switch off and relax for a few moments.”
Barnes also lauded the professionalism of those working in this part of the industry in New Zealand. “I can assure you that every fact was triple checked and I doubt we will see that standard coming out of Australia either.” She suggested that New Zealand readers should instead turn to a publication like NZ Life & Leisure, which is still produced locally.
Many of Bauer’s magazine titles are now up for sale, though the deadline for bids has been pushed back. Bauer is also experiencing turbulence across the Tasman, with the company cutting about 130 jobs in two tranches over the space of a week.
*Updated 5.45pm with comment from Bauer Media.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.