Buyer's market persists for 2006 mag-ad rates

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As many magazines begin to get a handle on how 2005 will end-and the results don't look as strong as publishers would have liked-negotiations with media buyers over 2006 ad rates indicate publishers will win only marginal increases.

"It's no different," said George Sansoucy, senior VP-director of print and media services at Magna Global Trading. "They ask for 6% to 8% and they get 2% or 3%, if that."

"I used to say I look forward to publishers pushing back," Mr. Sansoucy added, "but it's just been a buyer's market ever since 2000 basically."

Publishers said they have more pull than that. MaryAnn Bekkedahl, the new exec VP-group publisher for Rodale, said the company is seeking cost-per-thousand increases of about 5% across most of its mature titles, although a warhorse like Prevention is seeking 7%. "This year is very comparable to last year," Ms. Bekkedahl said. "It was the year before that and the year before that that were terrible."

Just four Time Inc. titles have posted official rate increases. Excluding any adjustments that reflect rate base growth, People and S.I. for Kids seek about 4% more, Real Simple wants a nearly 2% increase and Coastal Living is asking 6.4% more.

At Hearst Magazines, open rates are rising an average of about 6%, said Jeff Hamill, senior VP-advertising sales and marketing.

"On average our CPM ask is in the 4% range," said an executive at one major publisher, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We'll have magazines that, because of competitive situations, will get very little of it and we'll have magazines that get almost all of it." On average, the executive said, the titles will likely achieve 2%rate increases.

Others, like Forbes, said they have not yet decided.

No less than in years past, more cutting-edge media options like the Web seem to be capturing marketers' attention. Print launches like Domino, Celebrity Living, Cottage Living, and OK are crowding the market with attractive options, buyers said, while Gruner & Jahr USA's magazines are under new, more reputable management at Meredith.

Publishers' pleas for help with rising paper and postage costs, conversely, are hardly seducing buyers. "It's a good time to be in the buyer's seat," said Jack Hanrahan, senior VP-print, OMD. "There is not a lot of growth on the budget side." Domestic auto and consumer electronics in particular are disappointing, several executives said.

Some bright spots are poking through for the magazines. "Shelter books are thriving," said Eric Blankfein, senior VP-director, communication-channel planning, Horizon Media. "They're going to push for their rate increases."

And the celebrity weekly category is impossible to ignore. "It's shown a lot of growth in terms of new titles and those are getting more and more aggressive. That's going to stretch the category a little bit. As a category there's strength there," Mr. Blankfein said of the star-gazing books.

Laura McEwen, VP-publishing director, Reader's Digest, said the magazine's rates were showing "some positive yield," although she declined to be more specific. Still, getting better prices is a chore. "The onus is on the media, whatever media you're in, to be compelling when you're talking to advertisers."

CPMs

Publishers ask for 6% to 8% increases but they’ll only get 2% or 3%, one media director says

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