Mags still struggle

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Daylight at the end of a long, long tunnel continues to elude magazine publishers. The Never-Ending Recession-three years and counting-is hitting publishers with another dip, and top executives attending this year's American Magazine Conference admit that monthlies' final issues of the year look disappointing.

"There were a lot of last-minute cancellations for December" issues, said Cathleen Black, president of Hearst Magazines. Echoes Tom Ryder, chairman-CEO of Reader's Digest Association, "There was hope it was going to turn out better than it did."

Michael Clinton, chief marketing officer of Hearst Magazines, attributed the late-year weakness to "cost-cutting moves" at publicly traded companies seeking to better their fourth-quarter earnings numbers. A key magazine executive said the beauty category was especially affected by late-year cutbacks. Should the trends turn severe enough, the magazine industry could land in negative territory for the year. Through September, the magazines audited by Publishers Information Bureau posted an aggregate 0.3% ad page gain-a slowdown from stronger performances posted earlier in the year.

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