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Goodbye Dolly, at least in print: Teen mag goes all-digital

Thursday 1 Dec 2016 12:57 p.m.

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It's been a staple of teen girls in New Zealand and Australia for decades, but Dolly magazine is no more.

Unless you consider a website a magazine.

Publisher Bauer Media has announced the January/February edition of the 46-year-old teen mag will be its last, as the digital revolution continues to eat away at the industry.

But as difficult as it might be to rip a poster of Justin Bieber out of an app, Dolly will live on in cyberspace.

"Dolly has played a part in the lives of many Australians over the years, which is why we're delighted its outstanding content continues, but now exclusively on the channels today's teens prefer to interact with most," Bauer Media chief executive Nick Chan said in a statement.

Superstar Miranda Kerr's career began when she won a Dolly model search competition in 1997.

The magazine's sales have plummeted in recent years, from 90,000 in 2012 to just over 30,000 in the first half of 2016 (in Australia - separate NZ figures weren't available). Roy Morgan Research readership surveys showed at the end of last year, Dolly had a readership of around 14,000 in New Zealand - half that of its rival, Girlfriend, published by Pacific Magazines.

But Bauer says Dolly's website traffic has grown 77 percent in the past 12 months, and its social reach is up a similar amount. Bauer's own research found more than 90 percent of the mag's target age group - 14 to 17 - access the magazine's content on their phones.

It's promising the same mix of "breaking celebrity news, fashion, beauty and lifestyle content", and will continue its acclaimed Dolly Doctor section, which a recent academic study found contained the best health advice on offer from any mass-market magazine.

Bauer had already made some concessions to the changing media landscape, switching Dolly from monthly to bi-monthly in April, revamping the mag's website at the same time.

No job losses in New Zealand or Australia are expected, with all full-time staff expected to be offered roles elsewhere in the company.

The final print issue will feature three different "collectors" covers, featuring Australian band In Stereo.

Older readers can breathe easy however - Bauer told Newshub there are no plans for Cosmopolitan, or any other of its magazines, to go digital-only at this stage.

Pacific Magazines had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

Digital-only - can it be done?

Dolly isn't the first magazine to go all-digital, but if it can make it work, could pave the way for others.

The most infamous example is perhaps Newsweek, which stopped publication in 2012 after eight decades.

After the Washington Post sold it in 2010, the magazine's own website was shut down in 2011, and online readers pointed to the site of its new owner, The Daily Beast.

But only 18 months year after vanishing from newsstands, it reappeared in print - with more advertisements and a higher cover price.

At its peak in 2003, Newsweek's circulation topped 4 million - this had fallen to about 1.5 million when it was sold. In contrast, its main rival Time fell from 4.1 million to 3.2 million.

The New York Post reported in 2015 the relaunched Newsweek had a circulation of "just over 100,000". The good news was that the same report said the magazine was back turning a profit.

It also has 3.1 million followers on Twitter - close to its glory days, but obviously they're not paying the US$7.50 cover price.

Newshub.

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