Free Fall: 2009 Ad Pages Drop 28%

By Steve Smith

While not surprising to anyone, the ad page and revenue figures from Publishers Information Bureau showed that the ad recession continues to hit magazines hard in the first half of the year. Overall ad-page counts for consumer books were down 27.9% from the same period last year, now down to 79,245 pages. Revenue, as calculated from rate cards for the period, was off 21.2%. The Magazine Publishers Association cited some ad-sales resilience in staples such as food, hair products, soaps and cleansers and telecom. The toiletries and cosmetics category was down only 14.1% while the food and food products segment was down 16.7%.

The good news in otherwise dismal figures came for individual titles. Muscle & Fitness saw an increase in ad pages of 13.1% in the period, while OK! Weekly rose 11.8%. Fitness magazine was up 10.6% and Family Circle was up 10.3%. Scholastic Parent & Child (6.7%), The Week (5.3%), National Enquirer (2.5%) and Fit Pregnancy (1.3%) were also up.

Some of the more notable ad-page declines include Country Home (-80.7%), Boating Life (-61.3%) and Scientific American (-56.9%). As min editor-in-chief Steve Cohn recently told, magazines may be touching their bottom, but the recently closed ad sales of the fall fashion titles should serve as a leading indicator of third-quarter performance.