New Zealand’s largest magazine publisher closes shop – but why?

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Cat Mules

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The novel Covid-19 crisis has claimed NZ’s biggest magazine publisher, Bauer Media, but the government says it should have sought help through available business assistance initiatives.

This morning, Bauer Media NZ – New Zealand’s largest magazine publisher – announced it is closing shop permanently and with immediate effect, reportedly due to harsh economic impacts of Covid019. But the exact reasons behind this closure are a matter of some contention.

Bauer Media is home to many iconic and longstanding publications including The New Zealand Listener, North & South, Metro, Your Home & Garden, NZ Woman’s Day and Kia Ora Magazine. The Woman’s Weekly has been published since 1932, while NZ Listener has been published since 1939.

Staff were informed of the closure and immediate staff redundancy by CEO, Brendon Hill, via a Zoom meeting this morning. Bauer CEO Hill said: “This is a devastating blow for our committed and talented team who have worked tirelessly to inform and entertain New Zealanders, through some of the country’s best-loved and most-read magazines.

The release says that in response to their situation, Bauer urgently reviewed its New Zealand operations and “considered all options to keep part or all of the business open, including engaging with the New Zealand government”.

The New Zealand government deemed non-daily print media a non-essential service not permitted to publish during the Alert Level Four lockdown last week, however government officials did not see the Covid-19 lockdown as to blame for the company’s closure.

“We understand the New Zealand government’s decision to move to Covid-19 level four, but it has put our business in an untenable position. Publishing in New Zealand is very dependent on advertising revenue and it is highly unlikely that demand will ever return to pre-crisis levels.”

Kris Faafoi, Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, said Bauer Media did not seek financial assistance from the government: “I need to make clear that in conversations I’ve had with Bauer recently they indicated that they were not interested in looking at what assistance they might be able to call on from the government’s Covid assistance initiatives and that is entirely their commercial decision.

Faafoi also explained the decision from Bauer to close shop appears to be a long-time coming, and that they are reflective of the wider media environment. “Bauer is looking for buyers for its New Zealand assets and I don’t want to interfere in that process,” he said. “I also note that Bauer had indicated for some time that they were facing challenges around viability of their operations here in New Zealand.

Jacinda Adern, the Prime Minister, also rejected the idea that Covid-19 was to blame for the company’s shutdown, and laments Bauer’s decision to not draw on government subsidies on offer.  “This appears to have been a decision made at the same time as Covid-19, not because of it,” she comments.

“The wage subsidy could have made a difference to those writers, to those journalists, and we were very keen that Bauer take it up. We would have liked Bauer to keep their doors open, keep operating, keep an online offering and move through the other side of Covid-19 once we’re all able to.”

“They didn’t enter a conversation about becoming an essential service, they didn’t seek to continue to operate in lockdown and they didn’t want to use the government support to keep their doors open… In my view, they should have taken it up and they should have kept going.”

Bauer is a family-owned German business that owns more than 600 magazines worldwide and has annual turnover of NZ $4 billion. The decision to shut down Bauer is the latest in the spate of cracks in the traditional media system deepened by the Covid-19 pandemic, including NZME’s closure of Radio Sport and warning of future shutdowns in the days to come.

All of the 237 staff will be paid redundancy and leave entitlements in full, Bauer’s release said.

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Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

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New Zealand’s largest magazine publisher closes shop

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