Magazine ad page leaders (chart) MAGAZINE AD PAGES TAKE AUGUST VACATION

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August lived up to its dog days reputation for magazine publishers, posting the lowest ad revenue gains in what has otherwise been a strong 1994 turnaround year for the industry.

Ad pages were up just 1.4%, to 11,866.1, while revenues rose 3.6% over August 1993 to $551,287,239, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

That's a much more moderate rate of increase than the magazine industry has been experiencing.

For the first eight months of 1994, ad pages rose 4.8% to 109,740.8 and revenues were up 9.3% to $5.05 billion compared with year-ago figures.

"The strong momentum of 1994 was interrupted by the more moderate gains of August, but year-to-date ad page performance continues to be the best we've seen in a decade," said James Guthrie, exec VP-marketing at the Magazine Publishers of America.

Mr. Guthrie said softer growth was due to declines in two key categories, both of which had extraordinarily good performance in August 1993: business and consumer services; and computers, office equipment and stationery.

The business category saw revenues fall 15.4% in August, a drop that came off a high base, up 36%, in August 1993. Similarly, the computer category dropped 18.7%, coming off an August 1993 base that was up 27%.

The Economist saw ad pages drop 17.2% to 109.84 from 132.74 for the month. Publisher Willy Morgan attributed the decline to "more mergers plus a lot of corporate stuff has been held off, which is where we traditionally benefit. The Digitals [Digital Equipment Corp.] and the IBMs are re-engineering."

Forbes continued to set the pace in its category with 328.5 pages in August, up 34.2% compared with the same month a year ago. The figures were given a boost by the August appearance of the quarterly supplement ASAP, which was published last year the first week of September. President-Editor in Chief Steve Forbes said, "In terms of selling, it is still issue by issue, account by account. It's not the '80s yet."

For the eight-month period, Forbes is showing a 7.6% increase in pages to 2,243.21.

While two other categories were off slightly in August-toiletries, down 6.1%; and apparel, down 0.3%-other top 10 PIB categories had healthy gains for the month.

Drugs and remedies, which has been red hot for magazines all year, was up 31.3% to $31,433,770 in August. For the first eight months of 1994, drugs led all other categories, rising 19.5% to $285,542,112.

Mr. Guthrie said that this particularly benefits magazines because the medium is a far friendlier one for the heavy copy disclosure requirements of prescription drug ads.

The auto category, which represents more than 12% of magazine ad revenues, also has had a healthy year, rising 10.8% in August and 11% for the year to date.

Mr. Guthrie noted the August performance was particularly impressive, driven primarily by domestic car advertisers that account for only 40% of the total category. Domestic spending was up 35% in pages, compensating for weak import spending.

Joe Mandese coordinates Mediaworks.

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