Publishers Information Bureau reported that ad pages reached 10,412.6 last month, a 0.4% rise over January 1993. Ad revenue rose 3% to $463.8 million.
Hardly an auspicious way to start the year. And yet,the numbers do compare to a solid January 1993, when pages were up 4.6% and revenues 12%. The first quarter of last year, in fact, was the industry's strongest first quarter in eight years.
"Even a relatively small gain in January 1994 can be considered encouraging, when compared with the powerful January 1993 performance," said James Guthrie, exec VP-marketing development at the Magazine Publishers of America. "The underlying strength in 1994 will be more apparent as we enter the second quarter."
The second and third quarters of last year were surprisingly soft.
The flatness in January pages came as leading ad categories posted mixed results. Of the top 25 categories by revenue, 15 were down in pages in the first month, including No. 1 automotive, No. 5 foods, No. 7 drugs and remedies, No. 8 computers, No. 10 sporting goods and No. 11 apparel.
Cigarettes and tobacco remained in a free fall, dropping to the No. 14 slot as ad pages tumbled 33.4%. The drop in drugs and remedies is potentially worrisome since the category has been one of the industry's fastest growing in recent years.
Of the 160 magazines tracked by PIB in January, exactly half showed declines in pages, 76 posted gains and four had no comparable data from a year ago.
Some major magazines started the year with a thud, including: Bon Appetit,, Esquire, and Newsweek.
U.S. News & World Report registered a 17.7% drop with 107.95 pages, but Time led the field with 172.4 pages, a gain of 9.7%. TV Guide also continued on an upswing as pages climbed 9.8%.
National and local Sunday magazines were still singing the blues. Parade's 74.41 pages were down 7.5%, while USA Weekend's 70.46 marked an 18% drop. For the four-magazine PIB category, pages declined 24.6% in January.
Among leading women's service magazines, there were more winners than losers as five of the so-called "Seven Sisters" showed ad page gains: Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Redbook and Woman's Day.
Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle were down 6.3% and 1.4%, respectively.
Allure showed the industry's strongest growth, with pages increasing 77% to 52.88. National Journal was the hardest hit with 13 pages, a 71.1% drop.
In the business field, Forbes led the pack, but its 252.69 pages were down 6%. Business Week went the other way, showing an 18.7% gain, while Fortune was flat.