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Mag Ads Still Lagging

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Magazine ad pages continued to show softness in July, reflecting in part how uncertainties surrounding the Iraqi war affected monthly books' long lead times.

Ad pages dropped 0.2 percent to 14,696 from the year-earlier month, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Estimated revenue rose 7.9 percent to $1.2 billion, but calculations are based on publisher rate cards and do not reflect discounting. For the year to date, ad pages have climbed 1.6 percent to 123,877, amounting to an estimated increase in revenue of 9.6 percent to $9.8 billion.

Six ad categories recorded growth last month, with retail leading the gains (a 35.6 percent increase in ad pages and a 25.1 percent hike in revenue to $42 million). Also showing increases were toiletries and cosmetics (up 23.8 percent in ad pages and 24 percent in revenue, to $114 million); apparel and accessories (up 22 percent in pages and 43.5 percent in revenue, to $54 million); automotive (up 16.8 percent in pages and 22 percent in revenue, to $182 million); drugs and remedies (up 3.4 percent in pages and 11.2 percent in revenue, to $129 million); and home furnishings and supplies (up 2.5 percent in pages and 11 percent in revenue to $88 million).

The increases did little to convince observers that the beleaguered magazine industry is on the verge of an upturn. "Looking forward, we expect the weakness [in magazines] to linger on, given tougher comparisons and a muted ad recovery," wrote Merrill Lynch financial analyst Karl Choi in a research paper last week.

Categories that registered declines included financial, insurance and real estate (down 28.8 percent in pages and 27.2 percent in revenue, to $52 million); public transportation, hotels and resorts (down 21.4 percent in pages and 16.4 percent in revenue, to $37 million); media and advertising (down 9.2 percent in pages, but up 16.2 percent in revenue, to $65.4 million); food and food products (down 9 percent in pages and 3.1 percent in revenue, to $98.3 million); technology (down 6.6 percent in pages and 3 percent in revenue, to $66 million); and direct response (down 4.2 percent in pages and 3.4 percent in revenue, to $71.4 million).