Last year's steep drop, driven by recession and challenges from new media, was only slightly sharper than the 11.67% drop absorbed in 2001, when the economy was hit by a recession and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. But that's not much comfort, especially when the industry's total number of ad pages was just 220,812 for all of 2008 -- well shy of the 237,612 magazines mustered in 2001.
The auto industry, which once ran more ad pages in magazines than any other business, continued its amazing retreat last year. Automotive ad pages sank another 24.3% in 2008 after falling 6.3% in 2007, 13.8% in 2006 and 7.1% in 2005.
Others overtake auto
Magazines' former No. 1 category was so diminished by the end of last year that seven categories ran more pages: toiletries and cosmetics, drugs and remedies, apparel and accessories, retail, media and advertising, direct response, and travel.
But every one of the top 12 categories, which account for more than 85% of magazine ad pages, posted declines of its own. After auto, the biggest drops belonged to home furnishings, which tumbled 17.9%; financial, insurance and real estate, which fell 17.3%; and drugs and remedies, which lost 16.3%.
The smallest decline, for what it's worth, belonged to the media-and-advertising category, where ad pages slipped just 2.8%.
The fourth quarter showcased the worst of 2008. Financial, insurance and real-estate ad pages plummeted 36.5%, while auto sank 25.8% and home furnishings dropped 22.8%.
"Like other ad-supported media, magazines have been affected by the economic slump, which deepened as 2008 progressed," said Ellen Oppenheim, exec VP-chief marketing officer of the Magazine Publishers of America, which runs the Publishers Information Bureau. "Advertiser decisions for the fourth quarter were influenced by a range of factors," Ms. Oppenheim said in a statement accompanying the new statistics.
Monthly magazines, which require long lead times, were hurt in the fourth quarter by a hangover from the summer's high gas prices, she said. Weeklies escaped that fate but were hurt by rising unemployment and stock-market declines in the fall and early winter.