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September Shines Brighter for Monthly Magazines This Year

Industry Hasn't Regained Pre-recession Levels, but Has Greatly Improved Over Last Year

By Published on . 2

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ad pages in magazines' crucial September issues -- vital particularly for fashion and beauty monthlies -- are giving many publishers something to sing about.

Credit: AP
Publishers are reporting they have sold many more ad pages in this year's September issues than they did last year, when monthly magazines saw ad pages plunge an average of 23.6% from the September before that, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. Last year some titles saw September ad pages decline by steep double digits.

Most titles haven't recaptured their pre-recession levels. And the resurgence doesn't mean magazines have answered all their challenges: A forecast last month predicted that magazines' annual print-ad revenue would decline again in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before rebounding in 2013.

But September issues matter a lot, not only because advertisers -- particularly in fashion, jewelry, accessories and watches -- frequently use them to introduce campaigns. Running a piece of those campaigns in September helps, because those campaigns often continue for several months, hopefully setting up a relatively strong end of the year.

"September is seen as the best single-issue gauge of the media marketplace once the semi-lull of summer issues is behind us, and it represents the first issue to close after the time period when many advertisers might have re-evaluated budgets based upon retail sales, company performance, and other prime indicators," said Mary Morgan, VP and publisher at Hearst's Redbook. "Of course, coinciding as it does with consumers' push to back-to-school, fall fashions and the ramp up to seasonal changes, many tea leaves are being read all at once."

Redbook is expecting to run 148 ad pages in this year's September issue, up 24% from September 2009 and even 8% above September 2008.

The good news about this September follows other encouraging signs earlier this year.

"The market continues to be pretty volatile, but I have to say, so far, so good," said Lou Cona, exec VP of Conde Nast Media Group. "The continued momentum in the economy has really inspired clients to invest in their brands via our brands."

Conde Nast's Vogue, where the September issue matters so much that it became the subject of the documentary "The September Issue," will include 532.4 ad pages, up 24.1% from the issue a year earlier and more than any other Conde title will run in September. In its September 2008 issue, Vogue ran 674.1 ad pages.

"We saw growth from existing advertisers as well as some new advertisers," said Vogue VP-Publisher Susan Plagemann. Retail advertising in particular exceeded expectations, she said.

Vogue rival Elle, part of Hachette Filipacchi, said this September's issue would have 382 ad pages, up 18% from 324.8 in 2009.

Conde Nast's monthlies as a whole averaged a 7.2% gain in ad pages across their September issues this year, according to Conde estimates. Automotive, fashion and beauty advertisers in particular have been spending strongly, although home products and pharmaceutical advertising remains weaker than Conde would like.

Among Conde titles' September issues, ad pages rose 57.3% to 241.2 at Glamour; 14.4% to 88.5 at Self; 6.8% to 225.9 at Vanity Fair; 4.5% to 143.6 at Teen Vogue; 2.9% to 213 at GQ; and 1.4% to 119.5 at Allure. Some titles declined, including Details, where September ad pages fell 23.3%, and Lucky, where September ad pages fell 10.9%.

At Hearst, Harper's Bazaar expects to publish a September issue with 12% more ad pages than last year. Hearst will also see gains of 10% at Seventeen and 7% at Esquire, the company said. Marie Claire gained 37% if you set aside a supplement that accompanied the September 2009 issue but has been moved to the October issue this year, the company said. Cosmopolitan will come in flat with 150 ad pages, roughly the same as last year.

"Our September issue was one of our strongest on record, and is really a continuation of the momentum we've been experiencing throughout the year," said Nancy Berger Cardone, VP and publisher of Marie Claire.

Time Inc.'s InStyle will run 403 ad pages in September (including ad pages from a Makeover special), 16% more than September a year earlier, 21% above September 2008 and the first time since 2000 that InStyle's September paging will include more than 400 ad pages.

Sibling Time Inc. title People StyleWatch is running 135 ad pages in its September issue, up about 54% from its September 2009. About 60% of the ad paging in the new issues comes from new advertisers including Marc Jacobs, DKNY and Michael Kors, a StyleWatch spokeswoman said.

And Time Inc.'s Real Simple will likely include 141 ad pages, about 6% more than last year.

Even magazines that don't revolve around fashion and beauty can ride the September wave. Time Inc.'s Health magazine expects more than 125 ad pages, up about 24% over last year, partly because beauty advertising has proved the magazine's largest growth category this year. Ad pages in All You's September issue will top September 2009 by 40%, the magazine said.

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