Mid-2009: Magazine Ad Pages, Audience Decline

magazines aflameAs 2009 approaches the halfway point, most big publishers are in the red, and consumers seem to be cutting back on magazine subscriptions and newsstand purchases. Indeed, virtually every major magazine is experiencing an often-substantial decline in ad pages -- and an array of big titles also saw their total audience decline in 2008-2009.

Among women's lifestyle titles, Allure, Lucky, and Vogue are all down over 30%, while W is down 44%. Auto and enthusiast titles (mostly targeting men) are sharply down, with drops of 63% at Power & Motoryacht, 49% at Boating, 36% at Automobile, 31.5% at Motor Trend, and 32% at Road & Track. Details is down 38%,Maxim 33.5% and GQ, 32%. Music monthlies Spin and Vibe are down 28% and 39%, respectively. Food titles Gourmet and Bon Appetit are down 46% and 34.5%.

MIN Online has total ad pages at 118 leading monthly magazines falling 23% in the first six months of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. This compounds a 7.4% drop in ad pages in the first half of 2008 compared to 2007 -- which, in turn, compounds an earlier drop from 2006, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. (The first industry-wide decline in ad pages came in the second quarter of 2007; year-over-year losses are now beginning to stack up.)

The losses were widespread, with only eight out of the 118 titles tracked by MIN showing an increase in ad pages Fitness, Flex, Saveur, People's Style Watch, Successful Farming, Family Circle, Hunting and SI Kids. Among women's lifestyle titles, Allure, Lucky, Vogue and W are all down over 30%. Auto and enthusiast titles (mostly targeting men) are sharply down, with drops of over 30% at Power & Motoryacht, Boating, Automobile, Motor Trend and Road & Track, Details, Maxim and GQ are also down over 30%, as are music monthlies Spin and Vibe and food titles Gourmet and Bon Appetit.

The spring 2009 audience figures from Mediamark Research and Intelligence did not offer much solace, as magazines in a wide array of categories saw their total audience decline compared to spring 2008. One of the most dramatic drops came at Reader's Digest, where the total audience fell 16% to 31.8 million. Also experiencing double-digit declines were Ladies' Home Journal, down 12% to 12.2 million, Entertainment Weekly, down 12% to 10.8 million, and Redbook, down 13% to 8.7 million. In the single digits, Family Circle was down 6% to 19.8 million, Cooking Light was down 6.5% to 11.3 million, O, the Oprah Magazine was down 8.5% to 15.2 million, Martha Stewart Living was down 8% to 11.2 million, and Life & Style Weekly was down 8.5% to 4.2 million.

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