Consumer Mags Take Huge Ad Hit in '08

PIB: 'soft economy' blamed for 11.7 percent drop; slide accelerated in Q4.

Dylan Stableford By Dylan Stableford

RELATED: Just 42 Magazines Saw Ad Page Increases in ‘08

Many publishers would like to forget 2008 ever happened.

Consumer magazine advertising pages dropped 11.7 percent in 2008 when compared to 2007, according to year-end figures released by the Publishers Information Bureau late Tuesday.

The drop in advertising accelerated in the fourth quarter, as pages slid more than 17 percent.

“Like other ad-supported media, magazines have been affected by the economic slump, which deepened as 2008 progressed,” Ellen Oppenheim, the Magazine Publishers of America’s executive vice president said in statement.  “Advertiser decisions for the fourth quarter were influenced by a range of factors. For longer-lead time monthlies, consumers cut spending during the summer due to soaring energy prices, which caused advertisers to put buy fewer ads in year-end magazine issues.  In the fall and early winter, rising unemployment and steep stock market declines led to restrained ad spending in weekly titles.”

The drop followed three years of flatness, and was by far the worst slide since before 2000, the earliest year comparative PIB numbers are available.

And the hemorrhaging in 2008 was widespread. Each of the top 12 magazine advertising categories (which account for more than 85 percent of total advertising spending) declined in both full-year and fourth quarter 2008, and the declines were seen in both PIB revenues and pages. The most significant decreases were seen in the most beleaguered of sectors: automotive; home furnishings and financial, insurance and real estate sectors.

No Silver Lining

Among individual titles and magazine categories there were few, if any, bright spots.

Magazines that saw the biggest ad page declines in 2008 include Home (-37.9), the Sporting News (-34.2 percent), Saturday Evening Post (-33.5 percent), Soap Opera Digest (-31.5), Motor Boating (-31), Blender (-30.6) and More (-30.3).

All seven of Sunday magazines tracked by PIB, including the Los Angeles Times (-15.8) and New York Times (-12.9) magazines, saw ad page declines. (The only one that showed a gain was Spry, which didn't exist in 2007.)

Ad pages at Meredith's Ser Padres were up 42.2 percent, while Nexos (31.5), Scholastic Parent & Child (28), Mansueto's Fast Company (23) and OK! (23) rounded out the top five.

The Week and the Economist continued to buck the treacherous slide in the newsweekly category. The Economist posted a 4.4 percent ad page gain, while Time (-19 percent), Newsweek (-19 percent) and U.S. News & World Report (-32.4) posted significant losses. The Week was essentially flat.

But even the magazines that did relatively well in 2008 were down significantly over the previous year. New York magazine, for instance, ran the third most ad pages among all U.S. magazines, but still finished the year down 6.3 percent.

Overall, just 42 of the 241 magazines tracked by PIB showed ad page increases.

Click here for the full list.

2008 vs. 2007 -11.7
2007 vs. 2006 -0.6
2006 vs. 2005 -0.1
2005 vs. 2004 0.5
2004 vs. 2003 3.8
2003 vs. 2002 -0.7
2002 vs. 2001 N/A
2001 vs. 2000 -4.9
2000 vs. 1999 14.0


[EDITOR’S NOTE: Check for updates to this story.]

Dylan Stableford By Dylan Stableford


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