"The ad page recovery is real, and it is across the board," said Robert Teufel, president of Rodale Press and chairman of the MPA. "We think it will be even stronger in the second half."
A big reason pages were up 4.8% overall is that automotive advertising hasn't stalled midyear as it did in 1993, and the financial/business titles seem to be tracking closer to 1990 levels.
And unlike a year ago, when hopes were raised by a strong first quarter only to be dashed by flat second and third quarters, this time publishers are seeing encouraging signs even as they close their September and October issues.
That means the rise in ad pages reported by the Publishers Information Bureau in the first half should be followed by an even more robust second half.
Among the big publishing houses, Time Inc. and Meredith Corp. seemed the most optimistic while Hearst Magazines and Conde Nast Publications, with a heavy retail and fashion orientation, still struggled.
"Through the second half of the year, we're looking for a real strong performance on advertising," said William Kerr, Meredith's newly installed president.
At Hearst, only four of the 13 publications showed positive first-half numbers. President Claeys Bahrenburg conceded: "I don't see the robust growth that people have been talking about. The fundamental part of the economic rebound has been building supplies and automotive. The fashion industry is always the last to come back."
Eight of the Hearst books were down, and two posted double-digit drops-Colonial Homes (down 23.3%) and Esquire (down 22.1%).
The picture was much the same at Conde Nast, whose newly installed president, Steve Florio, skipped the MPA gathering. Flagship Vogue was off 6.5% in the first half. Eight Conde Nast books that PIB tracked saw ad pages fall, including double-digit declines for four: Bon Appetit (down 40.7%); Mademoiselle (22.7%); Vanity Fair (20.8%); and GQ (10.1%).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, every auto buff book had an ad page gain topping 20%. Petersen Publishing Co.'s Motor Trend set the pace with a 29.4% gain.
Hachette Filipacchi Magazines dropped out of the MPA a year ago and, so, was barred from the CEO meeting, but two of its magazines in the category are enjoying banner years: Road & Track (up 23%) and Car & Driver (21.2%).
"We're hotter than a $2 pistol," said William Jeanes, senior VP-automotive group publisher at Hachette Filipacchi. "We're hoping to be up over 20% on the full year."
Flagship titles Woman's Day (up 11.5% at 846.62 ad pages) and Elle (up 15.9% at 664.72) are surging, too.
Also looking healthy are the financial/business titles, after absorbing the brunt of the recession from 1991 through last year. Forbes, which won 1993's PIB ad crown, this year trails Business Week for the top spot in pages sold. Forbes was up 1.8%. Business Week posted an 11.5% gain.