The publisher of Elle and Car and Driver has been mandated to cut costs and boost profitability by French parent company Lagardere SCA, which has dispatched executives from the home office in Paris to streamline operations, under the leadership of CEO Alain Lemarchand. Industry observers have long questioned the future of Hachette's niche enthusiast publications, as the category in general has suffered from Internet competition in recent years.
From 2005 to 2008, ad pages at American Photo fell 17%, Boating 37%, Cycle World 19%, Flying 18%, Popular Photography 24%, and Sound & Vision 15%, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
Since then, the trend has continued and even accelerated as advertisers find themselves challenged by the recession: in the first four months of 2009, ad pages are down 49% at Boating, 18% at Cycle World, 19.3% at Flying, 15.3% at Popular Photography and 28% at Sound & Vision, according to MIN Online. Overall, Hachette's ad pages are down 22.6% through February, according to TNS Media Intelligence. (The decline is partly due to the absence of Home magazine, closed last year.)
It's an open question whether potential buyers of the Hachette titles will be able to secure funding for acquisitions, however. With global credit markets still frozen, money for the acquisition of distressed media properties like magazines and newspapers has grown scarce to the vanishing. In the enthusiast category specifically, Bonnier bought most of the Time4Media enthusiast titles from Time Inc. in January 2007, but this deal came in a credit environment that seems positively quaint today.