Magazines: Ad pages fall 12% in 2001

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Last year staggered to a sick close for magazines, spurred by the year's worst single-month performance on the ad-page front. The 200-plus magazines audited by Publishers Information Bureau, posted an average 19.4% ad-page loss for December en route to being down 11.7% for the year.

And while early '02 issues still look alarmingly scrawny, publishers may be excused for heaving sighs of relief to close the book, at long last, on '01.

One publisher points out the odd symmetries of `01, noting that the traditional business books were all off in the mid-30% range (Forbes down 38.6%; McGraw-Hill & Co.'s Business Week down 37.0%; Time Inc.'s Fortune, the overall ad-page leader, down 35.9%) and all newsweeklies were off in the 20% range (US News & World Report down 26.5%; Newsweek down 23.6%, and Time down 20.3%). As for the new economy titles-well, the less said the better (39.9% decline for Ziff Davis Media's Yahoo! Internet Life; 40%-plus declines for Gruner & Jahr's and Conde Nast Publications' Wired; 53.6% decline for G & J's Fast Company, and a 64.5% drop for Red Herring, winner of `01's booby prize for biggest overall loss).

Bright spots were few and far between, but Time4 Media's youth-skewing TransWorld titles displayed dotcom-era ad-page gains across its portfolio, with Skateboarding, Snowboarding, and Ride BMX being the only magazines in the ad-page derby's Hot 100 to post double-digit gains. In fact, the top seven magazines were all gearheady-guy titles, with Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Cycle World, Primedia's Power & Motoryacht and Time4 Media's Yachting rounding out the list. As for the top categories, exactly one among the Top 10-cosmetics and beauty-posted any increase, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Among the biggest losers: the computer and technology category, down 40.9%, financial, off 28.7%; retail, off 23.0%.

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