Publishers of adult magazines are gradually witnessing a slow demise in their businesses

from www.news.com.au – THEY can gird their loins and stiffen their resolve all they like, but for porn publishers the pun stops here.

Because, despite what the billboards promise, it seems there isn’t a potent enough nasal spray in the world to rouse the moribund adult magazine market, The Australian reports.

Last week the sector took another blow with the news that Playboy Enterprises is to outsource the business operations of its namesake magazine in a bid to reduce costs after losing about $US21 million on the title in the past two years.

The cause of the global rout of what are coyly called “men’s interest” or “adult” magazines is obvious: printed porn cannot compete with the unlimited moving — not to mention moaning — pictures available gratis on the internet.

Locally, similar shrinkage is being seen, albeit on a smaller scale.

The Australian version of Playboy folded in 2000 after its sales sank to an average of about 25,000 copies per issue.

That left just three of the so-called “P-mags” still standing: Australian Penthouse, published by Gemkilt, and ACP Magazines’ weeklies People and The Picture.

In the 1980s and 1990s these were among the most profitable magazines in the nation, with Penthouse and Playboy selling about 150,000 copies a month, The Picture up to 190,000 a week and People as many as 250,000 a week, according to people who worked for them.

Brad Boxall, a former editor and publisher of The Picture, says that in the mid-90s the title made a $13m annual profit, ranking it as ACP’s third most profitable title behind The Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day.

In the latest audit, for the three months to September, the mags were anorexic shadows of their former full-figured selves, with The Picture averaging sales of about 63,000 copies an issue and People down to about 44,000.

Penthouse, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in Australia this year, is all but dead on the newsstand, having resigned from the audit in mid-2007 after its sales dived from 61,000 copies to 26,000 in just two years.

Boxall, who is also a former Penthouse managing editor, predicts “girlie mags” may well disappear altogether within a decade.

Even the mags’ own publishers aren’t willing to speak up for them, with no one from ACP or Gemkilt agreeing to be interviewed for this story.

As well as the net onslaught, adult mags also suffered from the advent of the so-called lad’s mags, which run sexy content in a tamer format considered more acceptable to modern mores.

The trend hit Australia in the second half of 1997 with the launch of Max (now defunct) and Ralph, followed by FHM early the next year.

Although the bottom fell out of the monthly market a few years ago, the launch of Zoo Weekly in early 2006 has helped revive the category, at least temporarily.

The latest sales figures show the most promising areas for men’s publishing at the moment are upmarket titles, including News Magazines’ GQ, and fitness journals, such as Pacific Magazines’ Men’s Health and Odysseus Publishing’s Men’s Fitness, which from its current issue has increased from bi-monthly to monthly publication.

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