Magazine advertising revenue is down. Way down. We know this. Do we need any more reminders?

Needed
or not, the Publishers Information Bureau Tuesday released its 2009
year-end magazine advertising report. It revealed that ad pages for
2009 were down 25.6 percent, while estimated revenues closed at $19.45
billion, a drop of 18.1 percent.

While anyone could have guessed
that it would spell yet another quarterly decline (the 10th out of 11
since PIB began reporting on a quarterly basis in mid-2007, to be
exact) I couldn’t have projected (or perhaps didn’t want to) that a
mere 18 magazines would post ad page gains for the 12-month period.

That’s right. Only 18.

The
biggest gainers among them were Time Inc.’s fashion product title People
Style Watch (+24.4 percent), OK! (+20.7) and Bonnier’s Saveur (+12.6).
Not far behind were Family Circle (+11.5 percent), Scholastic Parent
& Child (+9.6), The Week (+9.5) and Fitness (+9.1). Kudos to all of
them.

Then, unfortunately, come the year’s biggest decliners,
many of which are from the boating sector. The reported losses are
deeper than I can grasp while writing this: Boating Life (-65.8
percent), Power & Motoryacht (-53.2), Boating (-53.1) and
Architectural Digest (-49.8). A TON of titles followed closely, losing
well more than 40 percent of their ad pages last year compared to 2008.

But
according to Magazine Publishers of America’s Ellen Oppenheim, magazine
spending showed improvement during the fourth quarter compared to the
same period in 2008. Ad pages during the period slipped 21.6 percent
compared to the prior year fourth quarter while revenues dropped only
12.4 percent. “Magazines experienced an uptick in food spending and
relative improvement in other areas, especially in automotive.”

Hopefully
this means the market has bottomed. Hopefully, this means that we’ll
begin to see gains (or gradually less severe losses) in the quarters to
come.

But let’s keep a perspective. The advertising pullback of
2009 was so severe that many of the surviving publishers have migrated
away (in varying degrees) from dependence on advertising revenues.
They’re charging more for content in print and online. They’re
diversifying their product portfolio so much that print is arguably a
second-tier player in the overall mix. Some are dropping print and/or
print advertising altogether.

Moving forward, I wonder how
accurate a barometer PIB’s quarterly reports will be about the health
of the consumer magazine publishing business.

In the meantime, here’s a look at how a number of categories performed in terms of ad pages, title-by-title.

AUTO 2009 2008 % CHNG
Automobile 510.97 799.42 -36.1
Autoweek 793.03 1,157.26 -31.5
Car and
Driver
805.98 1,031.03 -21.8
Hot Rod 532.50 638.16 -16.6
Motor
Trend
722.32 1,096.40 -34.1
Road
& Track
799.46 1,152.42 -26.4
BUSINESS/FINANCE 2009 2008 % CHNG
BusinessWeek 1,247.01 1,882.38 -33.8.
Entrepreneur 852.33 1,043.33 -18.3
Fast
Company
426.08 616.24 -30.9
Forbes 1,937.14 2,774.34 -30.2
Fortune 1,523.98 2,382.71 -36.0
Harvard
Business Review
343.82 468.67 -26.6
Inc. 619.80 817.93 -24.2
Kiplinger’s 279.92 424.81 -34.1
Money 563.02 793.62 -29.1
SmartMoney 387.29 502.23 -22.9
NEWS MAGAZINES 2009 2008 % CHNG
Newsweek 1,116.73 1,506.06 -25.9
The
Week
659.91 602.73 9.5
Time 1,447.05 1,752.19 -17.4
CELEBRITY 2009 2008 %CHNG
Entertainment
Weekly
965.87 1,216.39 -20.6
In
Touch Weekly
854.90 1,094.19 -21.9
Life
& Style
383.82 510.97 -24.9
People 3,367.20 3,422.23 -1.6
Star 1,131.40 1,173.24 -3.6
Us
Weekly
1,791.45 1,949.21 -8.1
OK! 903.82 748.74 +20.7