Computer ads take lead in PIB's magazine count

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Those searching for a sea change in magazine advertising may finally see it in ad page results for the first half of 2000.

Through June, the computer category contributed more ad pages to magazines than any other. Computer-related pages rose 56.1% to 10,925.53, which more than made up for disappointing results in the two leading categories for the same period in 1999, automotive (down 8.2% to 10,816.37) and direct-response companies (down 19.2%, to 9,878.69).


The top magazine title in terms of ad pages is The Industry Standard, which vaulted into first place with 4,163.98 pages, or a whopping 437.9% gain over the same period in 1999, according to figures just released by Publishers Information Bureau. The Standard beat Time Inc.'s Fortune by more than 1,000 pages, and its gains were mirrored by other new-economy titles, such as Imagine Publishing's Business 2.0, No. 9 with ad pages increasing 353.9% to 1,708.52, and Red Herring, ranked No. 12, with pages up 205.7% to 1,545.92.

The computer category's leading status "is a first" for the industry, said Christine Miller, exec VP-chief marketing officer of the Magazine Publishers of America. She added that the computer category--which includes software and Internet-related advertising--first outpaced automotive in May.

Additionally aided by strong gains in retail (up 85.3% to 8,449.81) and media and advertising (up 68.4% to 8,634.35), magazine ad pages for the first half posted an overall gain of 14.4%.

PIB classifies advertising by dot-com retailers according to category, rather than lumping it into the computers and technology category. So, for example, and amazon.

com ads count under book retailers.

Numbers for dot-com advertising are not yet available, although Internet-related advertising accounted for 45% of the computer category so far this year.

Still, few in the industry seem certain the current ascendancy of the computer category will continue, citing concerns about the dot-coms, whose spending ballooned in magazines during 1999.

"Will [computers] settle out as the No. 1 magazine ad category or will it be a temporary position?" asked Michael Clinton, senior VP-chief marketing officer of Hearst Magazines. "I don't think we know the answer to that."

Alyce Alston, publisher of O, the Oprah Magazine, expressed concerns about what might happen next.

"I think you will see a falloff in dot-coms," she said. Ms. Alston said she had expected a dot-com drop-off in the first half that, she admitted, did not materialize. Still, she cited consolidation among dot-com beauty retailers, saying that will affect women's titles disproportionately.


Ms. Alston said her magazine, which sold out ad inventory in its first three issues, has had few dot-com-related advertisers so far. But other women's titles smarting from disappearing dot-com revenue may be cheered by strong subcategories such as apparel retailers (up 53%) and the footwear category (up 21.4%).

The MPA's Ms. Miller was more bullish than Hearst's Mr. Clinton on whether computers will continue as the leading category, saying the category's strength "will continue as a trend." However she also suggested the slumping automotive category would be aided by increased advertising by import brands. As for the precipitous falloff in direct response, Ms. Miller suggested that weakness was due to companies moving direct-response marketing efforts to the Web.

And for the future? "More of the same," Ms. Miller predicted.

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