Australian street press: tapping into the undercurrent

Posted on: March 21st, 2012

Did you know that Australia has one of the most prolific street press industries in the world? It’s estimated that more than 400,000 copies of various street press titles hit the streets every week across Australia.

Street press can be a fantastic avenue for reaching highly-engaged, niche audiences and sub-cultures, as an alternative to securing broadcast and major metropolitan coverage. Every major Australian capital now has at least two weekly street publications and many regional areas have regular street press as well.

What is street press?
Street press can be defined as a printed publication that is generally available to the public free of charge on a weekly or monthly basis. They are usually available to passers-by at locations such as restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, live music venues, community centres and record stores.

Street press publications typically focus on particular interest areas (music, fashion or lifestyle) rather than a range of topics.  Most familiar are the music street press titles (e.g. Drum Media), which include a mix of local music, art and film news, reviews, venue-driven advertising, social photos and substantial gig guides.

They come in a variety of sizes, from broadsheet to tabloid and magazine format. To reduce costs, most are printed on low-quality newspaper stock with only some covers and the first few pages in colour. Even fewer use glossy paper for their cover.

Where did street press come from?
Street press emerged in Australia in the 1980s, essentially as a fusion of fanzines, bill posting and newspapers/magazines, which provide a hands-on guide to local entertainment – predominately covering music.  As the music scene diversified in the ‘90s, so did street press, spawning a diverse range of titles.  However, over the past 20 years the industry has entered a phase of rationalisation, causing the closure of some key publications. For example, one of Sydney’s earliest and longest-standing street press publications, 3D World, printed its final edition in May 2011, due to its sole focus on one genre of music (dance music), which failed to cater to the ever-changing tastes of its readers.

How was street press adapted to the trend towards online consumption of entertainment?
Street press has been surprisingly slow in transitioning towards an online model. For example, Drum Magazine is only available online in an e-reader (flip book) format, without any interactive content. Brag Magazine fares slightly better, having had an interactive online presence for around two years.

There are a number of online sub-cultural guides that perform better in this space, including Music Feeds, Faster LouderTime Out Online, Pedestrian TV and Concrete Playground, amongst others. Many of these online guides benefit from a daily or weekly e-newsletter, which street press titles like The Brag and Drum Media don’t offer.

In a similar vein to mX, the current print-based street press model benefits from being readily available in public areas where passers can easily pick it up and read at their leisure as a light form of entertainment.

What kinds of street press publications are there?
Most street press titles in Australia focus on the youth and music scene, such as The Brag and Drum Media. However there are also popular niche publications for fashion lovers (Fashion Journal); the gay community (SX News, LOTL, Cherrie); art enthusiasts (Das Super Paper); and the lifestyle arena (Broadsheet Sydney and Melbourne).

Many street press publications have also diversified through collaborations with television, radio and online. Also, the emergence of partnerships between street press and the entertainment and fashion industry offers brands an inroad into a pool of youth culture,  helping brands to speak the language of sought-after trendsetters and influencers. One such example is the magazine, Our People; created by Furst Media (publishers of The Brag, Fashion Journal) for General Pants.

Our most popular street press publications are:
Sydney’s two highest circulating street publications are The Brag and Drum Media. Although based in Melbourne, Sydney also receives Fashion Journal and Melbourne fave, Broadsheet, has recently made a foray into the Sydney market with limited monthly circulation.

How does street press exist if they are free?
Unlike glossy mags, which can recoup some of their costs through their cover price, street press depends entirely on advertising revenue for financial survival. For this reason, advertising dollars (rates for which are generally very reasonable), go a long way in terms of securing editorial content.

When should brands consider street press as part of their media strategy?
Street press will not necessarily be a natural fit for all brands. Brands should consider incorporating these titles as part of their overall media strategy in instances where they are trying to target a niche audience segment, which street press publications cater to.

Street press has been a strong focus for some of Stellar* Concept’s youth-oriented clients, such as Jägermeister, which has a longstanding association with the independent music scene in Australia, that is catered for by a number of street press publications.

As part of Jägermeister Australia’s Master Hunter media strategy, where the brand is trying to reach a core audience of 20-35 year olds who constantly seek out new cultural experiences (such as music-related events, and are the first to be ‘in the know’), street press was used to promote Jägermeister’s association with the Independent Music Awards 2011 in Melbourne and their Hunting Lodge activation at Sydney Festival 2012.

What are some of your favourite titles? The Brag? Drum? Fashion Journal? We’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Posted by Georgia McKay

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