13th annual Magazine 300

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The year 2001 was the annus horribilis in magazine publishing. Magazines charted in Advertising Age's annual Magazine 300 report dropped a collective 3.9% to $29.08 billion in gross revenue from advertising and circulation-this following the industry's annus mirabilis 2000 in which total revenue grew 9.5% to $30.26 billion.

Components of the big hit included a decline in gross ad revenue of 6.9% on a decline in ad pages of 15.1% as circulation revenue held steady at 3.2% growth. Only in the last recession year of 1991 did the major ad components come closest to the declines in 2001. Then, total revenue rose 1% as ad revenue declined 0.3% on a drop of 9.2% in ad pages.

In this 13th annual report, the 227 consumer magazines outperformed their 73 counterparts from the business press, even though ad-related measurements for both were still declines. Consumer pubs dropped 1.4% in gross revenue versus 9.5% for the trades, their gross ad revenue slipped 3.7% to the trade's 22.4%, and consumer ad pages fell 9.9% vs. the trade's 22.7%.

Magazines in the report ranged from top-revenue-star AOL Time Warner's People at $1.12 billion in gross revenue, down 4%, to Euromoney Institutional Investor's Institutional Investor at $18.3 million, down 20.3%. Only 127 on the list grew in gross revenue.

a two-year pummeling

This nadir in magazine publishing has now widened to a two-year trough. Ad pages through August of 2002 were down 8.2%, and ad revenue was flat compared with the first eight months of 2001, according to Publishers Information Bureau's review of 238 consumer magazines.

The paucity in ad spending similarly has held down ad rate increases this year, evidenced by the flat revenue tallies in the PIB totals. The average rate increase among the Magazine 300 consumer publications was 5.5% in 2002 vs. 9.2% average growth in rates in 2001. Rate hikes among the business publications averaged only 2.7% in 2002 vs. 7.1% in 2001.

Women's publications kept the Magazine 300 from spiraling into an utter abyss in this report. The 34 women's magazines on the list, topped by Hearst Corp.'s No. 10 Good Housekeeping, grew 12.2% to $4.84 billion in gross revenue. Ad revenue in the women's category advanced 12.3% and circulation revenue 11.9%. Their average ad rate increase in 2002 also measured 9.9%, highest for a major magazine classification.

Twenty of the women's pubs were in the top 100 by gross revenue, led by Hearst's O, The Oprah Magazine at 151.1% growth, Bertelsmann/Gruner & Jahr USA's YM, up 23.3%, and Bauer Publishing's Woman's World, up 20.5%. Rosie, a venture of Rosie O'Donnell and G &J, has been a hot product since its founding in April 2001 replacing G&J's McCall's. But recent fighting over its editorial control culminated last week with Ms. O'Donnell pulling out of the venture, possibly forcing the closure of the magazine.


Newsweeklies, the Magazine 300's top category at $5.01 billion in total revenue, off 8.6%, were a drag on the list. Their ad revenue plunged 13.7% on 14.9% fewer ad pages as circulation revenue held even with the prior year. Only the smaller contributors to the nine-member category, New York and Jet, grew in total gross revenue. By contrast, AOL Time Warner's People, No. 3 Time, No. 4 Sports Illustrated and No. 18 Entertainment Weekly, collectively dropped 7.5% in gross revenue; their ad revenue was off an aggregate 7% on 15.5% fewer pages. Their circulation dollars rose 1.4% thanks to higher sub counts.

The bubble has burst for the computer/Internet category. Climbing to rank No. 4 among the 300's categories in both 1999 and 2000, the category suddenly deflated to No. 7 in 2001 on a decline of 27.4% in gross revenue. Only the advertising & marketing category tumbled harder at 51.3%.

The computer/Internet category lost eight publications previously listed among the Magazine 300. Ziff Davis Media shuttered Family PC, Smart Partner, Interactive Week,Yahoo! Internet Life and converted to newsletter Ziff Davis Smart Business. AOL Time Warner closed ON magazine and folded eCompany Now into Business 2.0. Standard Media International closed Industry Standard.

Other closings included Conde Nast's Mademoiselle, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.'s George and Hearst/Miramax Films' Talk.

staff for this report: kevin brown, r. craig endicott, scott macdonald, philip montgomery-fleming, mark schumann and jennie sierra

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