Magazine Ad Pages End Year as They Started: Flat

Publishers Information Bureau Final Tally Down 0.1%

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NEW YORK ( -- Magazines' ad-page sales finished 2006 the way they went the whole year: flat, flat, flat. Of course, we've been here before. As Advertising Age wrote about 2005 when that year's figures came in, "Pages barely moved the needle, climbing a measly 0.5% above their 2004 total." Now that looks good in retrospect.
'Martha Stewart Living' and 'Dwell' were two that gained ad pages.
'Martha Stewart Living' and 'Dwell' were two that gained ad pages.

With yesterday's final report by the Publishers Information Bureau, we can elaborate on our early report from December. Magazine ad pages indeed closed 2006 unchanged from 2005 -- or, to be precise, slipped 0.1%

Print vs. digital
"In general what you're seeing is the stagnation of the print media vs. the proliferation of the digital age," said Christopher O'Connor, senior VP-group account director, MPG. "We've seen its impact on the TV side of the equation over the last year or so and certainly it's something that the guys in the print industry need to address."

Among the winners -- and admittedly there were plenty -- were Martha Stewart Living, up 41.3%; independent Dwell, up 39.6%; Bauer's In Touch Weekly, up 35.8%; and Rodale's Bicycling, up 32.7%.

But there were more underperformers to be found, including Hachette Filipacchi's Premiere, which gave up 24.7%; Time Inc.'s This Old House, losing 22%; Conde Nast's Jane, down 20.9%; Time Inc.'s Parenting and Hachette's Popular Photography & Imaging, both off 20.1%; Hearst's House Beautiful, which fell 15.6%; Kiplinger's Personal Finance, off 13.9%; and Conde Nast's The New Yorker, which gave up 12.7%.

Gains for startups
Many recent startups, such as Fairchild's Cookie and Rodale's Women's Health, posted much higher percentage gains, as well they should, while many of the worst-off titles actually closed last year, including Conde Nast's Cargo, Emap's FHM, Hearst's Shop Etc. and Time Inc.'s Teen People.

Final category tallies show that magazine advertising for drugs and remedies grew the most last year, surging 28.6%. Public transportation, hotels and resorts performed well, too, expanding pages 20.7% over 2005. And retail followed right behind with a 19.9% jump, apparently saving most of its merger-related trims for the newspaper business.

Auto was the disaster many predicted, falling 15.6% in the final count, although two smaller categories cratered a bit more. Home furnishings and supplies pages dropped 17.1%, while financial, insurance and real estate advertising gave up 16%.

Hopes pinned on luxury sector
Next year, many publishers are banking on luxury, which isn't broken out in Publishers Information Bureau reports but often looks better advertised in a thick, shiny magazine than on a computer screen. Luxury beneficiaries in 2006 included Conde Nast Publications' W, all of American Express Publishing and even the giveaway U.S. Airways Magazine, which closed up 114.9% for a total of 1,931 pages.

"Part of the appeal of some of these magazines is the glossy covers, the pictures and the engagement with it," Mr. O'Connor said.

Valerie Salembier, senior VP-publisher, Harper's Bazaar, said her magazine's 9.3% climb in ad pages clearly showed the power of luxury fashion and beauty. "For luxury titles, 2007 is going to be a very strong year, and I don't mean just fashion titles, but magazines like Town & Country, for example," she said. "Rich people stay rich."
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