Publishers Information Bureau: Shelter category sees big decline in ad pages

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Judging from magazines' first quarter's ad-page results, shelter is not shelter from the storm.

In a surprise turn of events, a reasonably steady category throughout the ad drought of the past four years posted almost uniformly poor results. Meredith Corp.'s Midwest Living posted the biggest falloff among the 100 largest magazines. Elsewhere, Hearst's House Beautiful and Country Living, Meredith's Country Home, and Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.'s Home and Metropolitan Home all posted double-digit drops-and Meredith's tent-pole title Better Homes & Gardens almost did, by posting a 8.3% ad-page drop. (Big exception: Hachette's Elle Decor, which along with the rest of Elle-branded titles evidenced double-digit growth.) Time will tell if this Domino effect will soon spread to Conde Nast Publications' entry into the space, although it garnered over 100 ad pages in its almost-out debut issue.


Elsewhere in the industry, the news was better. The 250-plus consumer titles that have ad pages audited by Publishers Information Bureau posted an overall gain of 1.2%, which rises to 1.3% if you include Sunday newspaper magazines.

Some previously-stressed titles showed signs of rebounding. Conde Nast's GQ and Glamour, which have faltered in recent years, both posted 20%-plus ad-page increases, as did Wenner Media's flagship Rolling Stone and World Publications' culinary title Saveur. And while Miller Publishing Group's Spin continues to post declines, with an 18.4% falloff, its sibling title Vibe saw its pages rise 22.2%. Still struggling: a broad range of business-related titles, including McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek (down 11.5%), Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's Fast Company (down 26.5%), and the Hearst/Dow Jones & Co. co-venture SmartMoney (down 12.7%). And some of the most venerated names in magazines turned in a dreadful quarter, like TV Guide (down 21%), Newsweek (down 23.6%) and Playboy (down 29.2%).

Still surging: the same next-wave women's titles that have provided some of the few bright spots for magazines in the past four years. Among them: Time Inc.'s Real Simple (up 22.4%), the Hearst/Harpo Productions joint venture O, The Oprah Magazine (up 9.3%), Conde Nast's Lucky (up 21.5%) and Wenner's Us Weekly (up 32.5%).

TV Guide and Newsweek were not the only weeklies to turn in disappointing results. Time Inc.'s Time and Sports Illustrated turned in double-digit declines, as did the Los Angeles Times' Sunday magazine. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia CEO Susan Lyne has promised analysts an imminent bounce-back in ad pages at the flagship Martha Stewart Living, but this quarter found it still well into negative territory, with an 18.3% decline.

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