PIB releases latest consumer magazine ad data

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The Publishers Information Bureau, a service of the Magazine Publishers of America, released its first quarterly report on magazine revenue and ad pages July 12, after switching from its traditional monthly system. The report revealed an industry with flat ad pages overall, book-ended by significant gains and losses in individual titles.

Ad revenue across the consumer magazine industry, led by ads for pharmaceuticals, prepared foods and snacks, rose 6.1 percent to $11.8 billion. Ad pages were down 0.5 percent since this time last year.

"You have to understand that there are a lot more media and marketing tools that advertisers are looking at compared to a year ago, and that's been happening the last few years," said Ellen Oppenheim, e xecutive vice president and CMO at Magazine Publishers of America.

"There's user-generated content, social networking and buzz media, and marketing budgets are staying relatively flat," she detailed. "Advertisers are having to choose from an ever-expanding number of options on which to spend that money. On the one hand, flat can be viewed as flat and clearly not as good as up, but on the other hand, when a form of media is holding its own when advertisers are sourcing budgets, that can be good."

Oppenheim went on to explain that product sub-categories, magazine sales teams and corporate packages play as large a role in determining which titles get ad pages as do sweeping industry trends.

For example, two magazines catering to middle-aged, educated male readers posted wildly different ad numbers in the PBI report: Discover experienced a 19.3 percent increase in ad pages since this quarter last year, while Time Inc.-owned Business 2.0 underwent a 41.5 percent loss in ad pages.

Henry Donahue, CFO of Discover, names a focused sales team and approachable editorial content as the reasons behind the science magazine's growth.

"We acquired the magazine 2 years ago from Disney, and that we could reenergize the magazine was central to the investment thesis, so this is the year that it's kicking in," Donahue said.

"The first part is editorial-related. If you compare it û it's a lot more energy, more topical, more appealing and accessible," he continued. "And the second part is we hired a new ad team here from scratch, so we put together an ad team really focused on Discover."

Conversely, the advertising sales team at Business 2.0 was folded into that of Time Inc.'s other finance and business publications û a group that includes Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Money and CNNMoney.com. The New York Times reports that representatives from the consolidated sales team focused on larger titles rather than pitching Business 2.0 directly to advertisers.

The ad loss suffered by Business 2.0 has some Time executives considering a September end to the tech-business title's production. Discover's gains have its leaders looking to the launch a second title û 1970's sci-fi magazine Omni.

San Francisco-based Business 2.0 claims a rate base of 600,000, DC-centered Discover runs at 700,000. Both are produced monthly.

MPA's Oppenheim pointed out that magazines are the first medium to report ad data, and that combined data from other media may tell a different story.

"Magazines may be attracting more revenue to magazine Web sites and extensions, and those numbers would be attributed to online readers even though it's a magazine brand," she explained. "It's a little but more challenging sometimes to show the overall industry growth."

"I think it's a really important to take a long-term view because with these lists, even year to year, it could be a corporate package that changes," Oppenheim declared. "It's really important not to read short-term trends and draw conclusions because there may be larger forces at work."

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