Oct. Ad Pages Up 8.4%

Magazine ad pages in October increased 8.4 percent from the same month last year, marking the sixth-consecutive month of industry gains, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Advertising revenue has similarly kept pace in the period, showing a 14.4 percent rise to $2.2 billion last month.

The comparison is helped in part by dismal results in October 2003, when ad pages dropped 3.2 percent from the same period in 2002. But the current spate of growth is a hopeful sign for publishers, whose industry has lagged behind competitors like cable and the Internet in reaping benefits from the media recovery.

The automotive category posted its third month of growth in October, with ad pages rising 20.9 percent. According to the PIB, of the 12 major advertiser categories—comprising 85 percent of the dollars spent in magazines—three others had double-digit page increases in October: media and advertising, which rose 22.3 percent; food and food products, 19.1 percent; and apparel and accessories, 13.5 percent. (Ad pages are viewed as a more accurate barometer of industry health than ad-revenue numbers, since the PIB uses rate-card reported revenue before any discounting occurs.)

“This is partly being driven by the economy,” says Ellen Oppenheim, evp and chief marketing officer of the Magazine Publishers of America. “But you’re also seeing greater interest on the part of advertisers to broaden their media mix, with magazines driving their ROI. As advertisers seek to eliminate waste and focus on more targeted options, magazines offer them targeting not only by demos but also by passion and lifestyle.”

For the year-to-date period, magazine ad pages climbed 3 percent, while revenue rose 10.3 percent to $17.1 billion. A boost in industry confidence has come from the financial-services category, a once-booming sector at the peak of the last economic cycle in 2000, which has since faded from the pages of magazines. This year, those marketers have increased their ad pages by 15.3 percent, with revenue rising 23.3 percent to $875 million. Other categories showing increases for the year-to-date period are food and food products, up 9.1 percent; media and advertising, 8.9 percent; public transportation, hotels and resorts, 8 percent; retail, 8 percent; apparel and accessories, 3.1 percent; and home furnishings, 1.8 percent.

Conversely, among those categories trailing the year-earlier period are technology, which is down 4.9 percent; automotive, 0.4 percent; and direct-response companies, 0.4 percent. Drugs and remedies marketers, whose ads may come under a new round of scrutiny and pullbacks in the wake of the Vioxx scare, are off 0.6 percent for the year to date.