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Choose your magazine carefully – almost all are bleeding ads

Magazine Ad Revenue Declining

Magazine Ad Revenue Declining

It only makes sense to pitch a fiscally healthy magazine, but that’s going to be almost impossible this year. Magazine advertising revenue is down 21 percent for the first quarter of 2009 compared to one year ago, and the decline cuts across virtually every type of magazine.

Of 160 major monthly magazines, only 13 have seen their number of ad pages rise this year, reports the Media Industry Newsletter (MIN). It’s a situation the publication has never seen before.

And within those 13, there was only one positive trend. There was growth among three family and children’s magazines: Sports Illustrated Kids saw its ad pages grow 29.6 percent from one year ago; Family Circle, 5.4 percent; and National Geographic Kids, 1.9 percent.

In every other category, the devastation was brutal. News and business magazines might as well be dead magazines: Time is down 47.7 percent and Newsweek 37.6 percent; BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune have seen their ad revenues drop 25 percent or more.

MIN notes that the bleak start of 2009 follows the horrid last quarter of 2008, when magazine ad revenue fell 13.89 percent. Don’t expect improvements anytime soon in this economy, MIN says. Publishers, “like everybody, hopefully will benefit from the ‘stimulants’ from Washington. The question is…When?”

If an industry resembles a loosely-bound family, then during a crisis, important expenses are cut back and harmful family feuds arise. Neither bode well over an extended period of time.

Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. has decided it can no longer afford to belong to the Magazine Publishers of America. The more readers a magazine has, the larger its membership dues. Hachette titles include Elle and Car and Driver. More publishers are thought to soon leave MPA.

MPA lobbies for the magazine industry, such as fighting to keep postal costs down. If the association is weak, it’s harder for it to step in and work on disputes, such as the current distribution battle between magazine publishers and the company that distributes nearly half the magazines in America. Source Interlink Company wanted to impose a seven cent surcharge per magazine distributed to points of sale. Time Inc., Bauer, Hachette Filipacchi and American Media balked and Source Interlink took the magazines to federal court charging anti-trust. The company now has a temporary restraining order that forbids the magazine publishers from stopping magazine shipments to Source. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23.

Family Feud is still on the air as a popular show, isn’t it?

–Michael Blankenheim

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