Bonnier Still Buying Magazines, Adds Scuba Diving

Why Some Niche Titles Are Holding Up Better Than Mass

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a sign that media deal making hasn't been felled by recession, Bonnier Corp. said today it's buying Scuba Diving magazine from F&W Media.

In many cases, niche magazines like Scuba Diver have found ways to tap their readers' obsession with their subject matter.
In many cases, niche magazines like Scuba Diver have found ways to tap their readers' obsession with their subject matter.
The deal isn't a blockbuster, but any investment by a media company has to be encouraging as layoffs and budget cuts dominate the scene. It's actually the second recent deal for Bonnier, which bought Working Mother in September. Terms weren't disclosed, but Bonnier CEO Terry Snow said the horrible economy and chilly credit markets helped him negotiate a favorable price.

The deal is also a small show of strength for niche-magazine publishing, which Mr. Snow said fared better than the general market in 2008. "2009 is yet to be determined," he said. "But in 2008, for the most part, the endemic advertisers continued to spend."

Niche titles hurt too
Monthly magazines as a whole saw ad pages drop 9.4% this year, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Niche titles were hurt like everything else -- Bonnier's Saltwater Sportsman got pummeled -- but many fared better. Ad pages in Cruising World, a Bonnier magazine about sailing, fell just 5.8%. Ski and Skiing, two more Bonnier titles, also fell by smaller margins than the market as a whole.

In many cases, niche magazines have found ways to tap their readers' obsession with their subject matter. Backpacker magazine's website, for example, allows readers to share photos, videos and GPS information on their hikes. That kind of engagement is a selling point for advertisers. Backpacker, published by Active Interest Media, expanded ad pages by 5.4% in the first three quarters, according to the Publishers Information Bureau; full-year numbers are not yet available.

Resilience showed through at other targeted titles. Rodale's Bicycling fared relatively well in 2008, falling just 3.7%. Hachette Filipacchi's Popular Photography & Imaging eked out a 0.7% increase this year. American Media's Muscle & Fitness grew ad pages by 4%.

No. 1 in categories
It helps Bonnier, however, that many of its books are No. 1 in their categories, such as Sport Diver in the scuba niche. "So you tend to get market share in a down market," Mr. Snow said. Adding Scuba Diving magazine means Bonnier has the top two books, he added. "If you have the No. 1 and the No. 2 books," he said, "you have pricing power."

Ad-page counts for Sport Diver and Scuba Diving were not available.

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