Bad News: Magazine Ad Pages Down 19% in November

magazine rack crossoutThe hope for a last-quarter recovery for monthly magazines is growing fainter with the release of November ad page figures from Media Industry Newsletter showing an overall 19.2% drop compared to November 2008.

This decline is consistent with previous months -- for the year-to-date, monthlies' ad pages are down 21.6%, according to MIN. But even more worrisome is the suggestion that monthly magazines will be slow to feel the effects of an economic recovery, whenever that should occur.

Out of 171 titles that provided MIN with numbers for their November issues, 144 or 84% saw ad pages decline in November 2009 compared to the same month in 2008. Seventy-nine monthly titles (46% of the total) saw ad pages fall more than 20% in November, with 42 (24.5%) experiencing declines of 30% or more. For the year-to-date, 82 titles (48%) have seen ad pages fall more than 20%, with 36 (21%) experiencing declines of 30% or more.



The small group of magazines that enjoyed growth in November included Time Inc.'s People Stylewatch, up 32% to 64 ad pages, and National Geographic, up 21.2% to 52 ad pages. On the much larger downside, some of the biggest losers were Conde Nast's W, down 51% to 79 pages in November, and Elle Décor, down 49% to 91.5 pages.

The latest figures from MIN come close on the heels of third-quarter results announced by the Publishers Information Bureau. Total ad pages for monthly and weekly magazines are down 26.6% for the July-September period in 2009, compared to the same period last year.

This was pretty much in line with declines in previous quarters, with monthlies and dailies experiencing a total decline of 27.2% for the year to date. 

However, the weak November numbers are a special cause for concern, for several reasons: First, ad pages had already entered a steep decline in November 2008 (falling 14.1% in comparison to November 2007) making for easier comparisons this time around. Second, November is traditionally an important month for all kinds of advertising, but especially magazines, as advertisers in categories like clothing and apparel, beauty, consumer electronics and travel gear up for the holiday sales season starting the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Moreover, November also serves as a predictor for December advertising demand. A big worry for publishers, since fourth-quarter numbers are traditionally the strongest.

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