Mag Ad Pages Up In August, But Big Picture Mixed

The August report from the Publishers' Information Bureau (PIB) details a strong performance by magazines during the last month of summer. Reported ad revenues are up 9.6 percent to $1.56 billion, and ad pages are up 4.4 percent from the same month last year to end at almost 147,000. But figures for the year-to-date paint a less cheery picture--with revenue up just 3.9 percent and ad pages essentially flat at .3 percent. And within the soft overall market, titles in two categories--celeb mags and men's lifestyle titles--are faring poorly.

First, the good news: despite increasing interest in the Internet, some important ad categories are more robust than ever. Drug companies, in particular, are still flooding magazines with ad money. August revenue from drug advertising was up 29.4 percent, and pages are up 18.7 percent over the same month in 2005. For the year-to-date, drug ad spending is up 18.6 percent from the first eight months of 2005, paired with a 12.4 percent rise in ad pages.



At the same time, some categories that have been mainstays for magazines are weakening, with the most alarming decline coming in auto advertising. August pages are essentially flat with a 1.6 percent dip, but the year-to-date figure has plummeted 14.6 percent.

The strong overall performance conceals the fact that some titles are in the doldrums--and others are in decline. Celebrity mags are taking some of the hardest hits, with Entertainment Weekly's ad pages down 7.3 percent for the year to date. Even more alarming, EW's single-copy sales during the first six months of 2006 fell 24 percent from the same period in 2005, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations' last FAS-FAX report. People's ad pages are down 1.5 percent for the year to date, and Vanity Fair is down 12.8 percent.

With the closing earlier this year of American Media's Celebrity Living and Time Inc.'s Teen People, one might conclude that all celebrity titles are in trouble. Not so. While EW and People are struggling, other titles are making huge gains. In fact, In Touch Weekly's ad pages are up a remarkable 40.5 percent for the year to date, while Star's are up 11.5 percent, and US Weekly is holding steady with 3.3 percent.

The bad news: The men's lifestyle category is in trouble--and high-brow, mid-brow and low-brow titles are equally affected. Details' August pages are down 18.9 percent, contributing to a 7.3 percent decline for the year to date; GQ is flat at .7 percent growth for the year overall; and Sports Illustrated is hanging in with .5 percent growth by the same measure. The "laddie mags" are getting the worst of it, with a 17.1 percent plunge in ad pages for FHM for the year to date, an 11.2 percent fall for Maxim, and an 8.6 percent decline for Stuff.

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