Bridal Titles Lose Readers, Not Advertisers

Two domestic genres--parenting and bridal mags--are suffering from shrinking newsstand sales--with a catch. Declines haven't translated into losses in ad pages or revenue for bridal titles. In fact, wedding mags are experiencing a small boom in ad spending, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. The commercial success, however, is tempered by big drops in single-copy sales, which some media executives consider a better bellwether of consumer appeal.

Like other niche titles, bridal mags are losing readers to Internet portals in their most important content areas, including fashion and service directories. For example, the Web's organization and user control make it a more effective tool for browsing bridal gowns or searching for a particular style, cut, color and designer. Also, online directories surpass magazines in the number of listings they can offer for caterers, entertainers, and planners.

The nation's largest consortium of bridal titles, the Conde Nast Bridal Group, typifies the trend. Including Brides, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, the Bridal Group has seen total newsstand sales fall 16% in the first half of 2006, compared to the same period in 2005--from 455,544 to 382,685, according to the most recent FAS-FAX report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Meanwhile, competitor Bridal Guide's newsstand sales fell 6.9%, from 158,062 to 147,086. Newsstand sales are especially important for bridal titles; since weddings are usually one-time events, most reading is transient.



But declining readership hasn't led to any cooling of advertiser interest: Brides' ad pages are up 19.8% to 2,472 and revenue is up 27.1% to almost $164 million, according to PIB figures--which compared January-September 2006 with the same period in 2005. Modern Bride is up 8.6% in pages and 14.9% in revenue to almost $107 million--more good news for Conde Nast, which owns both titles. Elegant Bride and Bridal Guide are basically flat on a year-over-year basis, posting low single-digit declines in ad pages.

As with homemaking titles, there seems to be a Martha Stewart exception for bridal mags. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's Martha Stewart Weddings is enjoying solid growth in single-copy sales--which rose 9.8%, as well as ad pages and revenue, which rose 14.4% and 17.8%. As with the impressive numbers at her other titles, part of this uptick may be due to a "rebound" effect after Stewart's imprisonment for a questionable stock sale in 2005.

Parenting mags, on the other hand, are taking big hits both in readership and ad spending. According to ABC, newsstand sales for Child are down 67.4%, while subscriptions fell 12.6%. PIB figures have the mag's ad pages down 16% and revenue down 27.1% for January-September 2006, compared to the same period last year. Parenting's newsstand sales are down 25.8%, subscriptions 6.1%, ad pages 15.7%, and revenue 10.5%. Parents is down 20.9% at the newsstand--offset somewhat by a 3.3% rise in subscriptions--but ad pages are down about slightly with a 4.6% drop.

Family Circle's newsstand sales are down 5.7%, as subscriptions fell 5.6%, with ad pages basically flat. Nick Jr. Family Magazine has seen subscriptions rise 15% to more than 633,000, but newsstand sales are down 47.2%, ad pages 13.3%, and revenue 4.9%. Although ABC figures are not available for Scholastic Parent & Child, ad pages are down 33% and revenue is down 25.4%. Likewise, American Baby and Baby Talk are both down in ad pages, according to PIB.

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