Magazine Industry Ad Recovery? Not in First Quarter

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The Publishers Information Bureau, which tracks magazine ad spending, released figures for the first quarter of 2010 on Friday, and, while the declines have moderated, the trend line still has yet to flatten out, much less turn upwardDespite encouragingindications elsewhere in the media economy, you still have to look pretty hard to find a silver lining in the latest report on magazine advertising.

The Publishers Information Bureau, which tracks magazine ad spending, released figures for the first quarter of 2010 on Friday, and, while the declines have moderated, the trend line still has yet to flatten out, much less turn upward.

Total spending for the quarter, at $4.05 billion, was down 3.9% versus the same period in 2009.

That figure is actually considerably inflated. PIB's revenue figures are based on the open page rate quoted to advertisers and don't reflect the discounts included in most sales.

The Real Trend Is Worse

The trend in ad pages offers a better sense of what's happening. That total was down 9.4% versus first quarter 2009.

Of the 233 magazine that reported to PIB, only 85 sold more ad pages in the first three months of the year than in the same period a year earlier. But while that sounds bad, it actually constitutes improvement: Last year, a mere 15 magazines managed to post gains.

And there was also growth in three of the 12 ad categories that account for more than 85 percent of magazine ad spending. Ad pages in toiletries and cosmetics, the second-biggest category (after drugs and remedies), was up 7.6 percent year-over-year. And spending in both the automotive and financial sectors rebounded -- not surprising, considering that both industries were teetering on the brink of disaster a year ago.
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