Publishers in 2005 scrambled out of holes dug

Publishers in 2005 scrambled out of holes dug during the recession and spent much of the year revamping mature magazines, launching new ones and making sweeping corporate changes—all with an eye toward laying the groundwork to better compete in a fast-changing media environment.

Publishers expect a steady stream of launches next year, particularly in the lifestyle category. One of the higher-profile titles being introduced is Condé Nast’s Men’s Vogue. Also in the works: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s tentatively titled shelter magazine Blueprint (which could launch in May); a high-end food magazine from RDA; and yet another women’s lifestyle title in development at Meredith.

On the advertising front, publishers will struggle for market share as Madison Avenue continues to be seduced by television and the Internet. In response, publishers are expected to be even more aggressive in offering integrated packages that incorporate print buys with online or television offerings.

Advertising growth in 2006 is expected to come in part from pharmaceutical and beauty categories. Although the drug category stagnated in the early half of ’05, ad spending through November rebounded 9.3 percent over 2004 to $1.8 billion, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, thanks to ads for prescription drugs like Singulair and Zoloft. Beauty products will get a boost from the flood of anti-aging products that preserve consumers’ youthful glow. Automotive—magazines’ top ad category—remains dismal in 2006 as Detroit’s business woes continue. Through November, auto revenue fell 3.1 percent to $2.1 billion, compared to the same period in 2004.

Circulation will remain a challenge. And publishers are using their Web sites to acquire subs, while others are launching digital editions that are delivered to readers’ desktops. Among the publishers taking advantage of this emerging technology are Hachette Filipacchi Media and Hearst Magazines.