Ad Blues: Major Mag Publishers Endured Tough Winter

magazines Everybody knows it's been a rough couple of years for big magazine publishers--and it's only getting rougher, according to TNS Media Intelligence's Group Publishers' report for January-February, which totals up the ad pages for the industry's top players. That means double-digit drops almost across the board--and we're not talking low double-digits either.

Among the ranks of the top 10, the hardest-hit was No. 1, Conde Nast--where ad pages plunged from 4,431 in the first two months of 2008 to 3,218 this year, for a 27.4% drop. Mitigating the overall decline somewhat is the absence of Golf for Women and Men's Vogue, which together contributed about 140 ad pages in the first two months of last year. Subtracting that from the first figure, Conde Nast is down 25% at the remaining titles. And Conde titles have a reputation for not giving advertisers rate-card discounts to boost volume.

According to MIN Online, through March ad pages are down 28.5% at Vogue, 22.3% at Glamour, 34.4% at Allure, 32.5% at GQ, 32% at Details, 40% at W, 57% at Wired, 35.5% at Lucky, 32.4% at Vanity Fair and 47% at Architectural Digest.

But Time Inc. wasn't far behind with a 21.3% drop in total ad pages--from 3,311 to 2,607--during the first two months of 2009. Taking into account the closings of Cottage Living, which contributed about 80 pages in 2008, Time Inc.'s remaining titles are down 19.5%. That's actually not as bad as one might expect looking at flagship magazine Time, down 47.7% through February according to MIN Online.

Likewise, Entertainment Weekly is down 44.7% through February. Among the monthlies, through March, In Style is down 28.5%, Real Simple is down 33.6% and Southern Living is down 29.5%. Time Inc.'s business division also continues to fall, with Money down 30.4% through March, and Fortune down 60.5% through February.

Right behind Time is Hearst, where ad pages are down 19.1% in the first two months of 2009, from 2,137 to 1,729. But the drop at Hearst is offset to a larger degree than Conde Nast or Time's figures by Hearst titles closed last year. These include Quick & Simple, CosmoGirl and O at Home. Subtracting these from the 2008 figure, Hearst's remaining titles are down about 15%. That's in line with the performance of titles like Cosmopolitan, down 16.6% through March, Country Living, down 12.7%, Good Housekeeping, down 9.6%, Harper's Bazaar, down 21%, and Marie Claire, down 14.6%. Town & Country experienced a steeper drop of 36.2% through March.

Hachette Filipacchi is down 22.6% through February; adjusting for the closing of Home last year, Hachette's remaining titles are down about 20%. Through March, flagship Elle is down 25%, while Car and Driver is down 22.6% and Road & Track is down 32.3%. Among its enthusiast publications, Boating is down 47.5% and Sound & Vision is down 32%.

Other big losers in the top ten are Bonnier, publisher of enthusiast titles including Field & Stream, Popular Science, Outdoor Life, and Ski, down 18.7% in the first two months of 2009; Source Interlink, publisher of Motor Trend and Automobile, down 36.7%; custom publisher Pace Communications, which produces a number of in-flight magazines, down 33.7%; and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, down 28.7% (partially offset by the closing of Blueprint last year).

Next story loading loading..