2007: Mixed Year For Mags

The magazine industry showed both vigor and volatility in 2007, as some titles prospered and others struggled or went out of business. 2008 promises more of the same.

According to year-end figures from the Publishers Information Bureau, of 238 leading consumer magazines tracked by the organization, 76 titles--or roughly 32%--enjoyed growth in ad pages of 5% or more, compared to 2006. In the same period, 71 titles, or roughly 30%, saw ad pages drop 5% or more. And 91, about 38%, were essentially flat, with revenue increasing or decreasing less than 5% in either direction.

Altogether, this equaled a total 0.8% drop in ad pages, keeping the industry as a whole basically flat from 2006 to 2007. Total rate card revenue rose 5.9%, to almost $27.5 billion--although these revenue figures may not be reliable, as many publishers offer discounts behind the scenes.

Indeed, it's probably wise not to read too much into these year-to-year changes. Samir Husni (a.k.a. "Mr. Magazine"), the chairman of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi, advised that "we have to look at the big picture over a period of years and see if we are really seeing any real change," adding: "If we look at the entire picture, we will see that all that is happening in the magazine industry is similar to a market correction: some win, some lose and some stay the same."



Both success and failure tend to come in a big way for leading titles. Among the most successful in 2007 were men's and women's lifestyle magazines, both new and established. Here, Vanity Fair, Details, Conde Nast Traveler, Life & Style Weekly, More, Outdoor Life and Outside were all up over 10%. Beauty and style magazines also fared well, with Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, and Allure also growing more than 10%. Men's Health, Men's Fitness, and Men's Journal turned in similar results.

Some of the biggest success stories in 2007 were relatively new launches, like Everyday with Rachael Ray, which jumped 59%, and Rodale's new Women's Health, up 48.3%. Wondertime--a parenting magazine from Disney--surged 60.3%, as competitor Cookie grew 44.8%. And Best Life, a men's lifestyle magazine, grew 37.3%.

Celebrity weeklies, another relatively new category, gave another strong showing in 2007. In Touch Weekly grew 20.2%, OK Weekly jumped 44%, and Star rose 24.8%. However, US Weekly stagnated, and Entertainment Weekly (a more middlebrow publication) is in trouble with a 12.7% drop.

Other categories are suffering--most notably newsweeklies and business titles. In the first category, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report were all down by mid-single digits. In the second, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, and Forbes all fell as Time Inc.'s business division--consisting of Fortune, Fortune Small Business, and Money--also struggled, including the demise of Business 2.0.

There were, however, three bright spots: The Economist, up 8.5%; Fast Company, which surged 20.6%; and Inc., up 6.4% (the latter two published by Mansueto Ventures).

Magazines targeting younger readers also suffered in 2007, and 2008 may see some go the way of Nickelodeon Jr., closed by MTV at the beginning of last year. Most notably, the ride may soon be over for Disney Adventures--down 31.3%--and things are also looking grim at Nickelodeon (Nick Jr.'s older sibling), which is down 16.1%. In the teenage realm, CosmoGirl, down 10.5%, seems to be suffering from the same depression, as Elle Girl and Teen People both closed in 2006.

Furthermore, ad pages aren't the only ominous trend for some magazines. A separate analysis of readership data from MediaMark Research and Intelligence for 112 well-known consumer mags shows that the median age of magazine readers continued to edge up across all categories, at a rate exceeding the general population, in both five-year and one-year comparisons.

Since 2002, 64 of the magazines saw the median age of readers increase two years or more, with 41 increasing three years or more. That's more than twice the increase in the population at large, where the median age rose 1.4 years from 2002-2007. Fifty-five also showed substantial increases in the shorter 2006-2007 time frame.

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