Publishers Information Bureau: Mag ad pages increase 8.5

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A strong September, in which magazines posted a solid ad-page rise of 8.5% compared with the prior year, lifted the medium further into positive territory for the first nine months of the year. Through September, magazines posted an overall 2.2% ad page gain.

For the first time in a long time, significant double-digit gains were posted by titles in a wide array of categories. To pick a few out wholly randomly: Atlantic Monthly (up 18.9%); shelter titles such as Budget Living (up 30.4%) and Meredith Corp.'s Midwest Living (up 32.5%); personal-finance titles such as Time Inc.'s Money (up 15%) and Kiplinger's Personal Finance (up 16%); Rodale's long-running women's health title Prevention (up 18.9%); and old-school men's mag Playboy (up 23.6%). Certainly a good number of titles posting impressive gains-like those in the business and personal- finance categories-did so after years of gut-wrenching losses, but the gains are no less sweeter for having come after a long run of losses.

Still struggling: music titles Spin (down 12.7%,) and The Source (down 15.8%); Hearst Magazines' women's-service warhorses Redbook (down 14.4%) and Good Housekeeping (down 3.8%); Conde Nast's still-sagging shelter/design title House & Garden; and Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's Fast Company (down 24.1%)

Given the surprising softness of 2003's fourth quarter, barring major surprises the current market dynamics look likely to boost magazines into posting an overall ad page gain for full-year 2004. This would mark the first year the industry has shown a positive ad page result since 2000.

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