Trailblazing women's magazine Cleo has been axed, publishing giant Bauer Media confirmed on Wednesday morning.
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Cleo magazine to close
Publisher Bauer Media Group has confirmed Cleo will close due to its lack of commercial viability.
Just five days after dismissing rumours of its closure as "pure speculation" – and insisting no announcement would be made in the "near future" – Bauer closed the magazine.
When asked why the company made its announcement so soon after declaring it wouldn't, a spokesman said: "No real comment on this point. Obviously with such a decision, all possibilities are explored before making a decision to close a magazine, and we don't make rushed decision based on media speculation."
In 2013, the staff of Cleo and sister magazine Dolly – aimed at teen girls – were merged to reduce costs. Lucy Cousins, who edits both titles, will step down from her role. The spokesman said Cousins' future with the company has not been decided. Bauer is currently in "consultation with affected employees", he said.
Cleo – launched by former Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose in 1972 – recorded a circulation slump of more than 20 per cent at the end of 2015, to just 42,200 print copies. Stablemate Cosmoplitan dropped 15 per cent to 77,000.
Bauer also revealed cuts to Dolly, which it will now publish six times a year instead of 12. Dolly's circulation dropped almost 20 per cent to 40,500 copies at the end of last year. (The company says reports of Dolly's closure are incorrect.)
Cleo became hugely popular under Buttrose's editorship for its frank sex advice, male centrefolds, sealed sections, its coverage of political and social issues, and for publishing popular writers including Germaine Greer and Norman Mailer.
Lisa Wilkinson, now co-host of Channel Nine's Today show, took over the magazine in 1984, replacing the centrefolds with a Bachelor of the Year competition.
Cleo re-positioned itself recently with a re-design and beefed up its investigative reporting. Still, many young readers baulked at the $6.95 cover price. Sex advice, in-depth reporting, fashion tips: there was plenty of it – much of it good – for free online.
As tempting as it is to blame the internet and fickle consumers, circulation figures suggest a more complicated story.
In early 2004, Cleo (its circulation then 198,000) and Cosmopolitan (204,000) were neck-and-neck. Yet Cleo's circulation is now almost half that of Cosmo's.
Andreas Schoo, Interim CEO of Bauer Media, said Cleo's next issue – on sale February 22nd – would be its last.
Mamamia founder Mia Freedman, a former group editor-in-chief of Cleo, Cosmopolitan and Dolly, previously said that magazine publishers were too slow to change.
"The internet: that's where mag readers have migrated en masse," Freedman said. "And the failure of publishers in the '90s and '00s to adapt to that massive generational change in media consumption has been catastrophic for youth brands like Dolly and Cleo."
Reflecting on the impact of Cleo in an article for The Huffington Post, Wilkinson said: "Australian women had never seen anything like it before. "Its message: that women could do anything. Take charge of their lives. Forge a career. Study. Be financially independent. Be politically active. Choose to be single. Achieve true, shattering sexual satisfaction – with or without a man. In fact, for the first time, women could make decisions about their lives and bodies without reference to a man at all. In 1972 Australia, this really was explosive stuff. The ABC series Paper Giants, The Birth Of Cleo, captured it beautifully."
Last week, Buttrose told News Corp that "The writing was on the wall" once Cleo had started stripping stories from other publications instead of commissioning its own. “It’s sad; it’s like a death in the family for me, but it hadn’t been the mag the Cleo team created all those years ago for some time now.”
Sad day for Aus media - CLEO axed while Dolly goes to bi monthly as pundits predict it's eventual demise in print - Bauer bites bullet— Sir Hornbag (@hornery) January 19, 2016
Without Cleo magazine, I wouldn't have a career. My heart hurts for a truly iconic publication and my friends that still work there.— Jessica Martin (@jfmartin311) January 20, 2016