Magazines Report Dwindling Ad-Page Numbers

Some Categories Shine Through Amid Overall Drop

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NEW YORK ( -- Magazine ad pages are down in the throes of economy-wide decreases, largely in the pharmaceutical, automotive and technology categories.

Total magazine rate-card-reported advertising revenue for the first half of 2008 posted a 3.1% decline against the previous year, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Ad pages during the first half totaled 108,924.13, declining 7.4% compared with the January to June year-ago period. Total revenue for the second quarter dropped 4.7% against the same period in 2007. Ad pages totaled 58,744.77 from April through June 2008, an 8.2% drop from the same year-ago period.

Widespread pain
Seemingly no category was immune from the economic slowdown. Declines were seen in toiletries and cosmetics; home furnishings and supplies; apparel and accessories; direct-response companies; financial; insurance and real estate; and the often sensitive auto sector. Drug advertising throughout media, already subject to stringent regulation in the earlier part of the year, is thought to have contributed prominently in decreases in that magazine ad category.

Despite the trend, several sectors managed to post first-half gains, among them food and food products; retail; public transportation; and hotels and resorts.

Retail gained a boost in spending from discount department and variety stores, as well as shopping centers, most notably in the second quarter. Public transportation and hotels and resorts, which registered a slight decline in ad pages in the first quarter, posted gains in the second, due in part to increased investment from airlines, hotels and both domestic and international destinations.

Just like the bad old days
"Recent reports indicate a downward trend in overall ad forecasts for 2008, which is reflected in PIB first-half numbers for magazines," said Ellen Oppenheim, exec VP-chief marketing officer for the Magazine Publishers of America. "The magazine ad trend this year is similar to those of the last ad drop-offs in the early 1990s, as well as 2001-2002."

In both those periods, PIB ad revenue and pages declined, but later rebounded with the ad market.

Many titles had double-digit declines in the first half of this year compared to last year. AARP the Magazine was off 20.5% in ad pages for the first half, while Atlantic Monthly was off 17%, and Blender was down 23.5%. Better Homes and Gardens was down 12.7%, Business Week 14.8%, Coastal Living 29.1% and Cooking Light 14.4%. Cosmopolitan and Cosmo Girl were down 15.1% and 14.5%, respectively. Country Weekly was down 21.9%, ESPN the Magazine 14.8%, Entertainment Weekly 16.8%, Family Circle 14.5%, and Fitness 23.9%.

Other titles showing ad-page declines: Forbes (off 12.6%); Fortune Small Business (14.3%); Gourmet (18.5%); Home (30.9%); Ladies Home Journal (14.5%); National Geographic Kids (38.8%); Nickelodeon (37.3%); Sports Illustrated Kids (30.8%); The New Yorker (20.1%); PC Magazine (35.8%); Smart Money (21.9%); Sporting News (30.9%); Sunset (14.8%); Traditional Home (15.1%); Newsweek (22.4 %); Time (21.1%); and U.S. News and World Report (30.3%).

Food titles a bright spot
Newer food magazines showed growth; Cooking with Paula Deen was up 31%, Every Day with Rachael Ray (15%), Relish (29.4%).

Other titles also reporting gains: Cookie (up 49.5%); Parents (12.2%); Fast Company, under new ownership of Mansueto Ventures (31.4%); Body & Soul (14.6%); In Touch Weekly (14.4%); OK Weekly (31.7%); Southern Accents (17.9%); Veranda (13.7%); Spin (15.3%); Technology Review (28%); and Working Mother (19.2%).
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