Magazines see continued ad growth in first quarter

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On the heels of a strong 1999, ad pages continued to rise in the first quarter -- up 8.4% to 58,807 pages -- four times the growth rate of last year's first quarter.

Key growth categories were retail and technology, with retail fueling growth, up 72% to 4,359.86 pages, driven mostly by apparel retailers. Technology, the No. 2 category both in growth and total ad pages with 5,369.36 pages, rose 19.8% in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest figures from the Publishers Information Bureau.

Technology, including computer hardware and software, as well as Internet companies and services, was boosted by Web sites, up 444%, and offline Internet support companies, up 400%, said Christine Miller, exec VP-marketing of the Magazine Publishers of America.

Financial advertising was the third-highest growth category, up 12.9% to 3,911.68 pages, and food was the No. 4 gainer, rising 12.5% to 2,201.02 pages.

DIRECT, AUTOMOTIVE DROP

Two ad categories in the top 5 for total ad pages fell as the first quarter ended. Direct response -- No. 3 in ad pages -- saw the largest drop, down 22% to 4,952.83 pages, most likely because activity is shifting to the Web, Ms. Miller said. Automotive fell 5.1% to 4,698.57 pages, and the drop was primarily due to Ford Motor Co.'s reallocation of ad dollars away from print, she said. "That category is so big, somebody's always up, somebody's always down."

Overall, McGraw-Hill Co.'s Business Week topped the list with 1,146.92 ad pages, up 31.8%. Its top three categories were technology, finance and automotive, said Joanne Bradford, VP-U.S. advertising sales director at Business Week. The downturn in automotive did not hurt the magazine, which, she said, has "a strong position with Asian imports, as well as coming back pretty strongly with Detroit."

The magazine's performance was also helped by its "e.biz" section on electronic business, which runs 12 times this year. Its 108-page Feb. 7 edition contributed 52 ad pages to the first-quarter total.

`IN LOVE WITH BUSINESS'

"Everyone's in love with business," Ms. Miller said. The economy and increased Internet spending are contributing to the rise in business books' ad pages, as well as the focus on business-to-business, which she said will fuel spending in the future.

Behind Business Week in the No. 2 spot was Conde Nast Publications' Bride's with 1,087.28, a 0.7% rise.

Time Inc.'s Fortune was No. 3, gaining 24.8% to 1,073.81 pages, and Forbes was No. 4, rising 32.4% to reach 1,005.38 pages.

"The wind is at the business books' backs and Fortune is just capitalizing on that," said Dave Long, president of media sales and marketing at Time Inc. The big gains in tech and financial advertising were a boost for the magazine, he said.

Time Inc.'s magazines rely heavily on automotive ads, said Mr. Long, but he is not concerned about the drop in the category. "I don't suspect [automotive's first-quarter decline] to be the case all year. When that clicks in, I expect it to be a very strong year," he said.

Imagine Media's Business 2.0 was the highest gainer, up 299.4% to 602.43 pages. Fast Company also had significant growth, rising 62.4% to 329.44 pages.

The three major newsweeklies declined in the first quarter, with U.S. News & World Report falling 21.1% to 375.86 pages. Newsweek dropped 11.6% to 464.65 pages, and category leader Time was off a slight 0.1% to 646.06 pages.

WOMEN'S SERVICE

In the women's service sector, Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing continued to suffer. Its Family Circle, down 14% to 269.26 pages, and McCall's, off 7.2% to 187.47 pages, were the only two of the seven sisters to decline.

Hearst Corp.'s Redbook saw the highest growth, 17.9% to 296.39 pages, primarily due to a 123% increase in food advertising, said Publisher Jayne Jamison. The hike in tech advertising also helped the magazine, which has "grown significantly in dot-com business," she said.

Meredith Corp.'s Better Homes & Gardens was in the top spot in the women's service category, with 412.34 pages, a 12.1% rise, and the publisher's Ladies' Home Journal was up 7.2% to 294.54 pages.

Hearst's Good Housekeeping was No. 2 in the category with 311.22 pages, up 11.8%. "In general, we saw significant gains in beauty, fashion and retail, and certainly in dot-com business," said Michael Clinton, senior VP of Hearst Magazines.

"Publishers are now delivering to advertisers more multi-platformed opportunities," including different distribution channels through TV properties and Web sites, Ms. Miller said. "We have arrived in the integrated marketing era, and [magazines] are very strong in it because we have the brands."

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