Magazines rebounded last year with ad pages totaling 234,387, a 4 percent gain, and rate-card reported revenue rising 11 percent to $21.4 billion, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. It was the most encouraging period of sustained growth for publishers since the start of the media recession three years ago.
December marked the eighth consecutive month of page and dollar growth, as ad pages totaled 21,216, up 10 percent from the year-earlier month, and revenue surged 17 percent to nearly $2 billion. It was an optimistic end to a year that started out with a down first quarter.
"We're certainly heartened by the fact that we've seen increases in magazines across categories and that there's greater dialogue about the increasing efficiencies of advertising in magazines," notes Ellen Oppenheim, evp, chief marketing officer, Magazine Publishers of America, an affiliate of PIB.
For the year, 11 of PIB's 12 major advertising categories posted increases, led by financial, insurance and real estate, food and food products, and public transportation, hotels and resorts. "The increase in financial services and public transportation shows overall growing advertiser confidence because their businesses are so reliant on the economy," adds Oppenheim. Technology remained the holdout sector, still lagging the industry recovery.
In December, the automotive category—boosted by new product launches—jumped a robust 36 percent in ad pages. Seasonal fourth-quarter factors kicked in, with toiletries and cosmetics showing a 28 percent hike in ad pages and apparel/accessories and drugs/ remedies each gaining 20 percent.
Magazines posting the largest gains in 2004 ad pages were Organic Style, up 81 percent; Teen Vogue, 67 percent; Scientific American, 45 percent; and Harper's Bazaar, 31 percent. The rebound in financial services advertising most likely helped business books like Fortune and Forbes, which showed ad-page increases of over 11 percent.
Not surprisingly, last year's largest decline was suffered by Martha Stewart Living, which plummeted 47 percent to 659 pages. Others with large drops in ad pages were now-defunct YM, off 42 percent; Renovation Style, 31 percent; Fit Pregnancy, 26 percent; SI for Kids, 25 percent; and Fast Company, 21 percent.
While Oppenheim remains upbeat about the pace of publishing's recovery, she's cautious about making forecasts, particularly in regard to at least one high-flying group of marketers. "We're cognizant of factors outside our industry like those affecting the drug and remedies categories," she said, pointing to the government scrutiny of their marketing practices.