Magazine Ad Pages Decline in Q1

Major publishers still see increases, though

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Consumer magazines' advertising woes continued in the first quarter of 2013, with ad pages slipping 4.8 percent versus the year-ago period on declines in nine out of the 12 top categories, according to numbers released today by MPA—The Association of Magazine Media.

Most ad categories were down as publishers have grappled with the shift to digital media, including Drugs & Remedies (down 6.7 percent), Apparel & Accessories (down 5.5 percent) and Media & Advertising (off 14.4 percent). Measured by ad revenue, the industry looked a little healthier, with ad revenue edging up 0.5 percent, the first increase in about two years. 

Some of the biggest decliners were National Geographic Traveler (down 56.9 percent), Brides (down 49.9, having reduced frequency from monthly to bimonthly), Road & Track (down 42.6 percent, but published two issues in Q1 2013 versus three in Q1 2012) and Maxim (down 36.1 percent), which just put itself on the block. Thought leader and news magazines were also hit particularly hard, with Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, Forbes, The Atlantic, Time, The Week and New York all posting double-digit ad page declines.

MPA CEO and president Mary Berner said without the inclusion of digital data, the print-only Publishers Information Bureau numbers didn't fully represent the magazine industry's health. “I think you have to look at PIB data in context and with caution,” she said. “It’s as good as we’ve got right now, but it’s only part of the story.”

Berner added that the MPA is working to integrate digital advertising numbers into the PIB reports.

Publishers whose bread and butter is high-end fashion, beauty and luxury advertising fared better. (Indeed, Toiletries and Cosmetics, currently the No. 1 advertising category, increased 9.6 percent in pages in Q1, according to Kantar Media, which collects the data for MPA.)

Hearst Magazines reported its pages were up 6.6 percent, with the biggest gains at Food Network Magazine (up 33.9 percent), Seventeen (up 33.2 percent) and Harper’s Bazaar (up 23.4 percent). Condé Nast's pages rose 3.3 percent, marking the publisher’s strongest first quarter in five years. Top performers were Bon Appétit (up 37.7 percent), Details (up 24.8 percent) and Golf Digest (up 22.2 percent). Time Inc., which relies on a broader base of advertising, eked out a 0.6 percent gain. 

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.