Gold in them thar' pills... - and property - carried by print

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Those who tell you print is in its death throes - and there are a few of them, especially in Australia - had time to reconsider over their seaside holidays.

News Corp's bargain buy of a couple of years back, the former APN News & Media regional newspaper business was in overdrive at my local Noosa News, with a glossy real estate section running 80 and then 104 fullsize glossy pages - not the cut-down mini-tab version now adopted for other News glossies - and that's not counting the 20-page high gloss product also inserted for one agent, and the 12 coldset pages in one main section for another, presumably squeezed out of the regular supplement.

And that's for a real estate market supposedly in decline.

In the doctor's waiting room this morning, my eye was caught by another local glossy tabloid called Kids Today, which turns out to be a quarterly product of the Noosa office of Victorian suburban publisher Star News Group. More about parenting than "kids", with substantial support coming from an education - and specifically Catholic education - section, but a worthwhile effort from an independent publisher. No doubt like its stablemate Noosa Today, they had to truck it up from a Sydney printer as well.

But the massive House of Wellness insert from national pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse brought me back to News Corp. This is no mere coldset tabloid product - they had done that as well with a 24-page Boxing Day Sale catalogue inserted into my Courier-Mail over the holiday - but a thumping 100-page perfect bound quarto magazine with a heavy coated cover.

Published by News Corp Australia - or its Herald & Weekly Times partnerships and magazines offshoot, depending on whether you read the imprint from the top or bottom - it's a fullscale magazine pitched at a predominantly female audience. And incidentally, a nice contract for fast-growing printer Ive Group, also in Sydney.

Although it's tagged 'Gift with purchase', it reached me with Monday's papers, though most likely the (Brisbane) Sunday Mail, which we don't bother to collect until the following day. Or by the same token, it could have been with The Australian or even the Noosa News... all of which are News Corp products.

More evidence that native or sponsored content, and more particularly, the print advertising element we used unfashionably to call advertorial, is alive and well.

Elyse Knowles, Wellness covergirl and contestant from Nine Entertainment reality programme The Block. turned model, provides a segue into the subject of cross-promotion. And I'm not talking about the amount of space News' The Australian devotes to Foxtel pay-TV programming... or what happens when conservative columnist and SkyNews opinion-leader - and former Tony Abbott aide - Peta Credlin stands for election later this year, as expected.

Its Fairfax Media acquisition last month positions the Nine TV business admirably to get further into native advertising and cross promotion, an art form of which rival Seven and its stablemate/offshoot Pacific Magazines is a master. While it's some time since I heard a Fairfax executive describe its flagship Sydney Morning Herald as "a folder into which we stuff our inserts and magazines - I wouldn't be surprised to see a reprise of that focus under the new owner.

Meanwhile after a tough couple of years during which Gereurd Roberts has been tasked with getting the house in order, the Seven West subsidiary has been talking up its print magazines, a market in which it claims leadership in all the segments in which it is active.

And while German-owned rival Bauer Media - once a stablemate of Nine - is closing another longstanding title (Cosmopolitan), Roberts raised the curtain on a new one - as yet untitled - targeting women and entertainment, while mentioning "further extensions of existing brands" in an interview.

Pacific had some catching-up to do, but reported an increase in 12-month EBIT of $9.6 million to last June, up from $3.5 million the previous year, largely thanks to a 20 per cent drop in operating expenses.

And while digital publishing is providing a bridge to a future which will no doubt include a keener focus on addressable TV, it's Pacific's print titles - from most-read Homes & Gardens (which has its own TV programme) to its top-selling weekly magazines - which are bringing in the bulk of revenue.

Elyse Knowles, incidentally, is also the subject of a new quarterly health and beauty magazine published for supermarket Coles by Medium Rare, which produces its monthly Coles magazine, for which 4.6 million readers is claimed nationally.

Print dead? Not from where I see it. Expect a year in which its value is realised again.

Peter Coleman

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