Despite a strong showing from titles in the men's category, ad pages in monthly and weekly consumer magazines declined 4.5% in the second quarter from the quarter a year earlier, according to new numbers from the Publishers Information Bureau. Print ad pages have now dropped 4.9% through the first half of 2013.
That's a sharper decline than earlier this year and a disappointment following the industry's recent optimism. But many of the bright spots reported before can still be found.
Conde Nast saw some of the biggest gains among the major publishing companies, with its GQ magazine reporting 302 ad pages in the second quarter, a 6.8% increase from the quarter a year earlier. Sibling Details turned in 192 pages, a 14.2% spike.
Hearst-owned Esquire had 253 ad pages in the second quarter, a 4.7% increase. Gains were also reported by Men's Health, part of Rodale; Men's Journal, part of Wenner Media; and Men's Fitness, the American Media Inc. title that introduced a redesign in May, aided by former Men's Health editor David Zinczenko.
Automotive advertising, where magazine publishers have looked for growth this year, is not meeting expectations, at least not at a macro level. Auto ad pages fell 8.1% in the first half, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures.
Gains in the first half were partly fueled by increased spending from advertisers in the toiletries and cosmetics category, where pages grew 3.3%, and in food and food products, up 4.9%.
"Grooming has certainly been one highlight for us this year," said Chris Mitchell, VP-publisher at GQ. According to Mr. Mitchell, endemic advertisers -- such as fashion, grooming and watches -- have maintained a strong presence in the magazine.
Women's service books saw some of the biggest declines in print, with Ladies Home Journal posting a 5.1% decline in ad pages, Good Housekeeping reporting a 6.5% drop and Woman's Day showing a 14% dip. Several titles in the category, such as Martha Stewart Living and Women's Health, bucked the trend, posting double-digit gains.
Beyond print, publishers were encouraged by continued growth in iPad ad units. The 58 magazine iPad editions tracked by the Publishers Information Bureau posted a 24.5% gain in ad units through June, which follows a first quarter in which the same titles reported a 23.6% increase in ad units. Those 58 magazines also saw a smaller drop in print ad pages, just 1%, than the whole. Combined print ad pages and iPad ad units at these titles climbed 7% in the first half of 2013.
The magazine industry's trade group tried to put the print ad-page decline in a more positive light.
"The rise in readership and advertiser investment in our brands from print to tablets and beyond proves that Magazine Media is an industry rife with opportunities for growth in the new media age," said Mary Berner, president-CEO at MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, in a statement accompanying the numbers. "I'm optimistic that publishers' experimentation and innovations for their print and digital products will continue to be rewarded."