Ad pages for the month totaled 18,163.9, up just 0.4% from the same time a year earlier, Publishers Information Bureau reported. But the cigarette/tobacco category climbed back into the top 10 categories, fired by a 58.2% page surge in October to 3,223.7 ad pages year to date.
That gain, plus the second consecutive strong showing in food, helped offset October declines in automotive, cosmetics, apparel, computers, drugs and remedies, and direct response.
The biggest category, automotive, had been carrying the industry to new heights all year. But last month it sputtered momentarily when it dropped 4.2% to 1,737.4 pages.
"I think everyone was surprised by that," said Terry Shiver, publisher of Motor Trend-still up a dramatic 24.4% on the year despite a 9.9% drop in October pages.
"It was kind of strange because October is usually the big rollout month in the industry and this year they seemed to be late starters," Mr. Shiver said.
It appears the ads were delayed-not canceled.
"If we're any indication, I guarantee automotive will be roaring back to life in November," he said.
Most publishers remain upbeat, apparently feeling that the soft October, compared with a very strong month a year ago, was an aberration.
"I don't think it is a cause for concern," said Mary Berner, VP-publisher of TV Guide, a magazine that defied the October blahs with a 7.5% jump in pages.
For the second consecutive month, Forbes is out in front of all other consumer magazines in terms of total ad pages with 3,188.6, up 3.6% compared to a year ago. Thanks to a strong 8% page gain in October, the magazine's PIB ad page lead over rival Business Week increased to 345.09-even though Business Week unveiled its redesigned 65th anniversary issue in early October.
Last year, Business Week produced a fifth, special issue that helped pad 1993's numbers, but had hoped the anniversary hoopla would overcome that.
Forbes, which is counting on its quarterly supplements FYI and ASAP for nearly 20% of its ad page tally, seems to be poised to take its third consecutive PIB ad page crown. A lot can change in the final two months, however, when Business Week's weekly frequency always gives it an advantage over its fortnightly rival.
Meanwhile, the race among the Big Three newsweeklies is tightening. Through the first 10 months, U.S. News & World Report was barely ahead of last year's pace but still was ahead of Time and Newsweek.
John Fennell, publisher of No. 22 Woman's Day, is predicting he will wear the Seven Sisters category crown at yearend even though through October he only has a narrow 35.7 page lead over the nearest category challenger, No. 24 Family Circle.
James Guthrie, exec VP of the Magazine Publishers of America, is pleased by magazines' overall performance to this point. "Year to date, we're up 4.4% and that's still the strongest ad page gain in a decade."