US Magazine Industry Looks Back on a Year to Forget

26 November 2001

The US magazine industry is counting the cost of the worst ad market in a decade, with 2001 a year best forgotten for many titles.

Figures released earlier this month by the Publishers Information Bureau [WAMN: 09-Nov-01] show a 10.1% year-on-year drop in ad pages in the period from January to October, with revenue down 3.4%. In addition, the fallout from September’s devastation in New York has seen many advertisers cut spend in Q4.

“Everyone was cutting back this year,” lamented Harlan Schwartz, Universal McCann’s senior vp/director of media planning and print strategy. “The economy started the downward slope early second quarter, and it just got progressively worse as the year went on.”

Some of the troubles began towards the end of 2000, with steep drops in adspend by tobacco and auto firms leaving many publishers struggling before the dotcom bubble burst. More recently, travel and insurance companies have also cut back on ads.

Nearly all magazine sectors have suffered, new media, personal finance and outdoor categories doing worst. However, some titles have managed to fashion a rise in ad pages, with record growth for Hachette Filipacchi Magazines’ Travel Holiday (+28.8%), Time Inc-published Health (+11.3%) and Weider Publications’ Men’s Fitness (+29.6%), according to figures from Mediaweek.

The women’s lifestyle sector has also increased, with ad pages up around 26.8% on last year, reflecting new titles and increased interest in the category from advertisers. Leading this surge was O, The Oprah Magazine (jointly published by Hearst Magazines and Oprah Winfrey), whose ad pages leapt 51.4% this year to 1,369. “Our key is the diversity of our ad mix – we have everything from furniture to beauty to mass to prestige,” beamed O publisher Jill Seelig. “We’re not overly dependent on one particular category.”

Also up was the teen category, with Gruner + Jahr USA’s YM posting a rise of 38.2%, the biggest in the sector and in the magazine’s 69-year history. The title will increase its frequency from 10 to 11 issues in 2002, and intends to go monthly in 2003.

However, ad pages were down for some big-name titles, including Vanity Fair (Condé Nast) and In Style (Time Inc), posting respective falls of 7.5% and 10.2%. VF suffered the loss of 100 pages from new economy advertisers and 30 just from General Motors following a row with the magazine’s publisher [WAMN: 12-Mar-01].

The gloom may not yet be over – some observers fear that Q1 next year will be even worse than the current quarter, with recovery unlikely until the second half of 2002.

News source: (US)