Biz Mags See Rise in Readership

Business publications have been decimated in terms of ad spending this year, but marketers that pulled out of the category might have missed a big opportunity to reach their target audience.

As consumers seek help to navigate the recession, business titles have seen an uptick in readership, Mediamark Research & Intelligence’s fall magazine audience report shows.

Six business titles — Forbes, Fortune, Inc., Smart Money, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist — had year-over-year increases in total audience, the twice-annual report shows.

The WSJ saw its audience grow 11.6 percent, to 3.4 million; Forbes’ grew 11.5 percent, to more than 6 million; Fortune’s rose by 9 percent, to 4.1 million; and The Economist’s audience grew 6 percent, to 2.8 million.

Yet those gains are hardly reflected in magazines’ advertising results. Take Forbes, which just went through another round of layoffs amid a 35 percent decline in ad pages year to date. Fortune is cutting its frequency in 2010 as ad pages plummeted more than 32 percent so far this year.

“The issues that we and other magazines face [are] not a loss of readers or reader interest,” said Tim Forbes, president and chief operating officer at Forbes. “But advertisers who are pulling back from magazines more than they should given that audience interest. Sure, that’s frustrating. Advertisers have, if you will, overdone it when it comes to magazines.”

People may be cutting back on the number of magazines they buy, but they’re still interested in the world of business, agreed Roberta Garfinkle, svp, director of print strategy, TargetCast.

“The one thing that some advertisers are losing sight of is the fact that the audiences are holding and even in some instances, growing,” she said.

Meanwhile, some magazine categories that one might expect to do well in a recession shed audiences over the past year.

In women’s service — which has fared relatively well in terms of advertising — many lost audience, including Family Circle and Woman’s Day.

Among food titles — which one might expect to benefit as consumers shun restaurants to eat in — four (Cooking Light, Everyday Food, Every Day with Rachael Ray and Food & Wine) lost audience. Bon Appétit was the exception, increasing its audience 8 percent.

And while entertainment has been thought to be recession-proof, entertainment and celebrity titles were a mixed bag. People, In Touch and Us Weekly gained audience but Entertainment Weekly, Star and TV Guide were down.

Check out all the ups and downs in the magazine-ad world at the Mediaweek Monitor.

Nielsen Business Media