Bad News for Magazine Ad Sales

Just as the magazines really started crawling their way out of the recession, the hole beneath them might have opened right back up.
Throughout the downturn, packaged goods giants like Kraft and Unilever, which are less susceptible to bad economic times, have continued buying advertising and have as a result propped up publishers. But those companies have slashed spending in the first quarter of 2011.
Titles at Time Inc., which publishes Real Simple and Cooking Light; and Meredith Corp., with mass women’s brands like Parents and Family Circle, were among those affected.
“Across the board there’s been softness in food and packaged goods,” one publisher told Adweek.
January ad paging for three key CPG advertisers already indicates softness. According to ad tracker Magazine Radar, Procter & Gamble ran 246 pages in magazines that month, the most recent available, a 15 percent decline year-over-year. Kraft Foods’ was down 39 percent to 31 pages and Unilever’s, down 37 percent to 26.

Toiletries/cosmetics and food have been the top two categories in magazines in terms of dollar volume the past two years, and among their strongest-performing. Combined, they spent close to $5 billion in the medium in 2010, with toiletries/cosmetics surging 12.8 percent to $2.7 billion.
Kraft and Unilever haven’t replied to requests for comment.
The good news for publishers is that they’ve been told rising commodities prices were the reason behind the cuts. That would suggest this is a temporary blip and not indicative of a structural shift in strategy.