Spring brought no relief for consumer magazines, with total ad pages declining 8.5% from 44,795 in the second quarter of 2011 to 40,969 in the
second quarter of 2012, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Total advertising revenues, based on official rate cards, slipped 3.2% from $5.7 billion to $5.5 billion.
Losses were widespread, with 140 out of 217 consumer magazine titles tracked by PIB (or 64.5% of the total) experiencing ad page declines; 76 titles, or 35% of the total, experiencing ad page declines of 10% or more, while 34 titles, or 15.7% of the total, experienced ad pages declines of 20% or more.
Although it doesn’t necessarily represent a trend, magazines targeting female audiences seemed to take some of the biggest hits. Some of the largest drops in percentage terms were seen at First for Women, where ad pages fell 41.5% from 149 to 87; Prevention, down 32.2% from 221 to 150; Martha Stewart Living, down 30.2% from 279 to 195; All You, down 29.1% from 263 to 187; Shape, down 27.1% from 347 to 253; Essence, down 24.1% from 189 to 173; More, down 23% from 249 to 191; Ladies’ Home Journal, down 21.5% from 256 to 201; Redbook, down 20.5% from 383 to 305; and Lucky, down 18.5% from 283 to 230.
Men’s titles also took some hits, although percentage declines tended to be smaller. Muscle & Fitness fell 21.3% from 420 to 330; Men’s Health dropped 15.4% from 235 ad pages to 199; Maxim fell 14.1% from 126 to 108; and Men’s Fitness was down 12.9% from 229 to 199.
These figures are especially discouraging because they represent the fourth straight quarter of year-over-year declines in ad pages, despite hopes for a quick recovery following the economic downturn.
After stagnating in the second quarter of 2011, total PIB ad pages declined 5.6% in the third quarter and 8% in the fourth quarter, followed by an 8.2% drop in the first
quarter of 2012.
Ad pages continue to decline despite modest increases in overall ad spending, with Kantar Media estimating that total U.S. ad spending increased 2.6% in the first quarter, while Nielsen pegged the growth rate at 2.1%. The contrast suggests magazine ad page losses are due to long-term structural trends, including the transition from print to digital advertising.