Does closing Zoo Magazine make any difference?

MEDIA WATCH | John Sandeman

Friday 18 September 2015

Zoo Magazine’s demise makes the world safer for young women,” according to a press release by the Australian Christian Lobby.

Zoo, described as a “struggling lads mag” by Mumbrella, will bite the dust in October. The final quarter of 2014 saw a huge 36 per cent decline in sales to just 24,122 copies sold according to Mumbrella. And it was pulled from the circulation audit system in May: normally a sign that things are going badly. (Eternity, by the way has our circulation audited by the official print media auditor).

The magazine was removed from Coles’ shelves after a petition launched by advocacy group Collective Shout attracted more than 38,700 signatures according to advertising industry journal B&T.

Zoo promoted rape culture, according to Collective Shout. “The publication contains highly sexualised images of women along with headlines and articles discussing their body parts. Readers are shown where to access more explicit content on its website and social media, along with ads for phone sex lines and adult shops,” the group said on their website.

Losing the sales from one distributor – and Collective Shout do deserve the credit for this ­– may have simply made the magazine unviable, which suggests the magazine was likely to be culled anyway by publisher Bauer, unafraid to close its Australian titles. Playboy Australia closed in 2000. Ralph closed in 2010. Zoo is simply part of what the feminist Fairfax site Daily Life has called the “looming demise” of the Australian men’s magazine.

A dying breed of magazines is probably easy pickings for lobby groups. All magazines, not just the ones that people lobby against, are under threat. Glossies are possibly the media most severely affected by the Internet, more than newspapers or traditional TV.

Australia has a lower spend in magazines than the UK, for example; 4 per cent of Australian advertising is in magazines, compared to 8 per cent in the UK. The medium is vulnerable.

But the claim that Zoo’s demise will have any significant impact on women’s safety seems to draw a long bow. Even more than print media, lad’s mags and their more hardcore siblings have migrated to the net. Or rather been swamped by an Internet porn industry that is so big that nobody can measure it.

And regretfully the Internet makes things too easy. I have never been tempted to read Zoo or its mates. But I have surfed to places on the net I shouldn’t have.

According to the Stop Porn culture site run by activist Gail Dines, 25 per cent of all Internet searches are for porn. The porn industry makes more money than Hollywood.

Which makes the shuttering of Zoo magazine seem rather small. I would like to think that closing this mag would really make women safer. But I doubt it.

Comments on this article are now closed.

4 Responses to Does closing Zoo Magazine make any difference?

  1. Lyle Shelton says:

    I agree that Zoo is small beer compared to the internet but it does not make our claim about women’s safety false. It was good of you to reference ACL’s media release  but it would have been better if you also quoted the last line as it answers your criticism of us: “We must focus our efforts on creating a safe environment online for women and children by deploying available internet filtering technology,” Ms Francis said.
    Is our claim that the demise of Zoo in supermarkets will make the world a safer place true? Absolutely. Is the job finished? No. In the eight years I have been at ACL we have campaigned relentlessly for internet filtering. Our new Prime Minister is one of the biggest opponents. Porn must be fought in all of its manifestations and the Zoo victory important and shows speaking up works. I appreciate Eternity’s reporting and wish there was more news and analysis of this type. As you know, we always stand ready to speak with you and your staff to give account for our public statements. 

  2. How our campaign against Zoo made a difference.

    -39,000 people cared enough to sign a petition targeting the CEO’s of our two major supermarket chains. Every signature resulted in emails to their inboxes. 
    – The campaign was led by 23-year-old, Laura Pintur, her first foray into activism. Her bravery inspired other young people to make their voices heard. Many told us they saw that they too could make a difference and work for social change. Girls reported they were now standing up to sexist behavior in their schools and beyond.
    – Inspired by our campaign, a 20 year old female employer made a complaint to Coles management through her union that having to sell porn themed magazines created a hostile workplace environment for herself and her colleagues – which compelled Coles to act. The media reported Coles decision as ‘catastrophic’ to sales. 
    -The campaign received significant national and international coverage, good for our cause and our movement.
    -It advanced our goals.
    – It helped continue the debate on objectification of women, sexualisation of young people, the harms of pornography, violence against women and rape culture. Many people were shocked to learn that Zoo was read by 39,000 14-19 year old boys every week.
    – It inspired activists globally, running similar campaigns such as Lose the Lads Mags in the UK.
    -It reminded corporations of the importance of corporate social responsibility and being true to their company statements about ethical behaviour, commitments to safety and care for communities. 
    -There is a ripple effect the results of which we may not even seen. Companies may think twice about their own behaviors and potential damage to their brands from engaging in sexploitation. 
    – Zoo going under gave our 60,000 supporters cause to celebrate. We like celebrating.

  3. Brendan says:

    Hi Suzy,

    I hear what you’re saying, and I am also excited to hear that Zoo magazine will no longer be in magazine racks across the country.  It’s a great outcome!

    I see this article differently from you, however.  I think the Bible Society does get it.  The way I read it, this article article is ‘celebrating this win’ (to use your words).  I think the author is simply acknowledging that it’s only a small victory in a very large battlespace.
    Well done to Collective Shout and all the people who supported their campaign…


  4. Suzy says:

    The new PM gets it.  Why doesn’t the Bible Society get it?  Malcolm Turnbull, announcing $100 million to tackle the scourge of domestic violence in this country, said today, “Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence againstwomen. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women”. Zoo Magazine and other “lad’s mags” are tools of disrespect and contribute to the culture in which violence against women is allowed to propagate.  (“Easy pickings”?  No, a sustained effort of a significant number of concerned men and women over a long period of time).  I for one am glad it is no longer in the aisle at our local supermarket any more, screaming at all the girls going past, “this is what you’re good for”.  It’s one less contribution to the wallpapering of public spaces with pornographic, objectifying and demeaning images which girls are exposed to every day as they grow up.
    Of course online porn is a monumental problem.  But this war on women will be won, one battle at a time.  The Bible Society should be championing the work of Collective Shout and celebrating this win, rather than suggesting there was no win at all.