The tri-pillars of magazine advertising success-page growth, page rate increases and ad revenue volume-reached new heights among the U.S.' Top 300 magazines last year. Ad pages grew a whopping 7.9% and, backed by an average 8.2% uptick in page rates, delivered 13% growth in ad revenue to $22.15 billion among these elite publications. Less stellar was circulation, contributing $9.09 billion in gross revenue, up 1.8% over 1999 even though paid subscribers in most categories declined.
All together, advertising and circulation produced a gross revenue take of $31.23 billion, a record 9.5% increase from 1999. The previous high for gross revenue growth in the 12-year history of the Advertising Age Magazine 300 Report was 8.9% in 1997, the previous pinnacle year for ad revenue growth (11.8%) as well. The previous high for ad page growth was 4.5% in 1995.
By volume, consumer publications dominated this 12th annual running of the Top 300, claiming 213 spots and $26.12 billion of total revenue, but business pubs demonstrated better across-the-board growth- 13.8% in gross revenue to consumer's 8.7%; 15.5% in ad revenue vs. 12.3%; and 10.8% in ad pages vs. 5.6%. The business titles showed slightly better growth in circulation revenue of 2.2% to consumer's 1.8%, although faltered at the newsstand, down 13.6% in revenue to consumer's 0.1% gain.
Time Inc.'s People finally knocked TV Guide off its perch as perpetual leader among the Top 300. But neither had sterling years as TV Guide, a Gemstar-TV Guide International publication, declined 8.7% in total revenue and People squeezed out a 0.9% gain.
The first four months of 2001 seem to be solidifying People's lead. Its ad pages are down 5.6% vs. a year ago, but ad revenue is up 0.03%; ad pages at TV Guide have slid 16.5%, producing a 17.1% decline in ad revenue, according to Publishers Information Bureau. People's sibling Time Inc. publications, Time and Sports Illustrated, are the only other magazines close enough to make a run for the lead, but each has experienced greater declines this year than People. Time ad pages are down 23.9%; Sports Illustrated's are off 12.9%.
Such declines occurring industrywide make the largesse that was 2000 bittersweet. The industry, expansive and upbeat several months ago, appears in retreat and somewhat glum in outlook. Layoffs have been numerous and advertising scarce. Through April, ad pages for the 251 consumer magazines monitored by PIB have declined 7.5% in the aggregate as ad revenue has inched upward 0.3% thanks to page-rate increases. Although PIB does not report page-rate hikes, most PIB publications are among the Ad Age Top 300, and these 300 reported an average 8.7% hike in page rates for 2001.
As a group, newsweeklies-following the lead of TV Guide-slipped 1.6% in gross revenue to $5.49 billion in 2000 among the 300. Time dropped 1.1% in revenue, Post/-Newsweek's Newsweek fell 0.9% and Mortimer Zuckerman Publications' U.S. News & World Report declined 8.6%. Sports Illustrated, up 3.4%, Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly, up 3.9%, and People were the bigger newsweeklies in the plus growth column.
The group faired poorly in circulation, declining 2% in subscription revenue and 10.7% in newsstand revenue, as total paid subscriptions dropped 4.5%.
The list's top 10-a subset accounting for nearly a quarter of the Top 300's gross revenue take-would have shown negative growth had not consumer business and finance publications carried the day. McGraw-Hill Cos.' Business Week, Time Inc.'s Fortune and Forbes Inc.'s Forbes grew in total revenue 26%, 40.5% and 31.2%, respectively, and pushed their 15-member category total up 22.8% to $2.68 billion in revenue.
Computer/Internet magazines, comprising 30 titles paced by PC Magazine from Ziff Davis Media, claimed higher revenue ($2.76 billion) than the business and finance category, but less revenue growth at 12%. A third business group, the six-member business trade category harboring hot titles like Time Inc.'s newly bought Business 2.0, Fast Company from Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing, and Time Inc.'s Fortune Small Business, generated the most dramatic revenue growth of 78.6% among Top 300 categories. These two categories countered the flat to declining paid subscription counts in most categories by growing 14.7% and 27.8%, respectively.
WOMEN'S DOUBLE-DIGIT GAINS
The 34-member women's category, accounting for some 30% of gross revenue of all monthlies in the Top 300, grew 12.2% in total revenue, 17.2% in ad revenue and 10.2% in ad pages. The category's volume player, Hearst Magazines' Good Housekeeping, bettered those percentages across the board, but InStyle from Time Inc. obliterated them, gaining 42% in total revenue, 52.8% in ad revenue and 27.1% in ad pages.
The home service & home category showed modest growth of 7.6% in gross revenue, but among category leaders Meredith Corp.'s Better Homes & Gardens, Time Inc./Southern Progress Corp.'s Southern Living and Martha Stewart Living from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, only Martha Stewart Living advanced in ad pages, up 17%.
Reader's Digest Association's Reader's Digest dominated the 20-member general editorial category that grew 7.1% in revenue, 10.3% growth from advertising and 2.7% from circulation. RD is one of only three in the top 50 to draw more revenue from circulation (53%) than advertising. TV Guide pulled 58% of gross revenue from circulation, and National Geographic Society's National Geographic, 74%.
FOUR START-UPS ON LIST
The Top 300 rarely includes start-ups, but in 2000 four won slots. Hearst Magazines claimed two with O, the Oprah Magazine at No. 105 and CosmoGirl at No. 221; Emap USA's FHM was No. 292; and Time Inc.'s eCompany Now was No. 275. The Time Inc. magazine will couple with Business 2.0, bought this month from Future Network's Imagine Media. Two other Time Inc. start-ups, Real Simple and On Magazine (renamed after its 2000 launch as Time Digital), fell just short of the list.
A Top 300 gimme for next year will be AARP's My Generation, the spinoff of Modern Maturity for the baby boomer generation, defined as ages 50-55. The every-other-monthly was launched with a March-April issue that carried a rate base of 3.1 million and ad sales slightly larger than Modern Maturity. Most advertising at this point is combo sales with Modern Maturity.
The age range targeted by My Generation will expand upward each year until it becomes necessary for the magazine to give birth to a new publication when Generation Xers enter their 50s. Modern Maturity at the same time shifted its two editions that addressed working members and retired members to two editions based on ages 56-65 and 65-plus.
The revised version of Details, a Top 300 magazine in 1999, fell far short of the $20.2 million cutoff mark for this year's list but will likely return to the fold in 2002. The publication, moved by Advance Com-
munications from Conde Nast Publications to Fairchild Publications and switched from a men's magazine to a more targeted men's fashion title, published only three issues under that new format in 2000.
Likewise "returning" to the Top 300 fold in 2002 will be Gruner & Jahr's Rosie as the reincarnation of McCall's, allowed to exit the ranking temporarily because of the mothballing of its venerable name. Rosie debuted in April 2001.
Three titles in last year's Top 300 were shuttered: Meredith Corp.'s Mature Outlook, Home Office Computing from Freedom Technology Media Group and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' George.