Mag ad pages plummet 9.2%

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No one would claim that pre-Sept. 11 was anything like the best of times for the magazine world.

For the first three quarters of 2001, the average magazine of the 200-plus audited by Publishers Information Bureau saw ad pages drop 9.2%. Of the top 10 titles ranked by ad pages, only the 10th-Bridal Guide-avoided a drop, and it was joined by only three other titles in the top 20.

No one's claiming the immediate future looks any better, as the nation and economy are wracked with anxieties and fears unlike any ever experienced before. Said one top magazine executive: "We are now budgeting. And everyone says, `Well, that sounds right,' and then everyone looks around the room."


Through the end of September, the two largest ad-page categories, direct response and automotive, posted ad page drops of 1% and 8.7%, respectively. The third largest-the travel category of public transportation, resorts and hotels-showed a slight gain of 2.2%, but no observers expect that gain to hold for the remainder of the year.

Travel advertisers "don't want to appear anywhere. All travel magazines will be struggling for the next 60 days," said Steve Florio, CEO of Conde Nast Publications, in an early October interview. (Conde Nast publishes Conde Nast Traveler.)

While Mr. Florio said he was "pretty bullish" for the second half of '02, his optimism was not widely shared.

"People are talking about a very different first half in terms of advertising" in `02-keeping in mind that the first half of '01 hardly did gangbusters business-"and who knows about the second half," said Jack Kliger, CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines. "It's so unpredictable. You don't know what the events will be, or the economic reaction." As for what his company felt in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, Mr. Kliger said it lost "a hundred-plus pages and $2 million-plus dollars" for his company's calendar 2001 magazines.

The bright spots among the bigger categories were in cosmetics and hair-care products, both of which posted double-digit gains.

One of the big stories in magazine advertising during the boom years of '99 and especially '00, the robust growth in luxury advertising, now seems over, judging from two executives' comments on the matter. (The other big ad category for magazines-tech-continued its slide: Computers, software, and Internet-related advertising, the largest ad page category of last year, clocked in ninth through September, with an ad page drop of 37.6%.)

"Where we see [a fall-off for the future] is luxury and high-end goods," said Mary Berner, CEO of Fairchild Publications, which publishes the luxe title W. "It's hard to quantify how much of that is a result of Sept. 11, and how much is in anticipation of a terrible holiday."

"The stores are being impacted. People aren't coming to New York," said Ed Kelly, CEO of American Express Publishing Corp., which publishes the high-end title Departures as well as other affluent-aimed titles like Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure.

So what does Mr. Kelly see for the future?

"I would really love for '02 to be flat."

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