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Magazine Readership Soars While Ad Revenue Falls

Newsstand sales have surged for news magazines since Sept. 11, but ad buys have dipped industrywide as advertisers ponder whether this is an appropriate time to be pushing products and services.

Newsweek has increased its print run sixfold since the attacks to handle demand, while Time and U.S. News & World Report have been printing at least three times as many copies as normal. The companies believe subscription requests will rise following the newsstand lift during the next two months because public interest in terrorism news likely will stay steady or grow.

“We certainly don't want to make it seem like we are capitalizing on this horrific event,” said Brian Wolfe, vice president of consumer marketing at Time, New York. “At the same time, we offer a great news perspective on events like this. There exists an opportunity to extend the brand and reach new customers because of the nature of the business that we are in.”

John Paloian, president of magazine and catalog business at Quebecor, Montreal, said that Time, U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek were among his company's print clients that saw advertisers from nearly every sector pull out of last Monday's issue.

Paloian said airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other travel-related advertisers pulled ads because of the terrorist attacks.

“A lot of them were in the travel industry and that's completely understandable,” he said. “There were some magazines that could have been 200 pages, but were cut short significantly because of a lack of ads. Just look at special editions [for the attacks] — they're almost purely editorial.”

Paloian, who worked in the magazine publishing industry during the Gulf War, said publications and advertisers have to be careful during the coming weeks about how they treat events. He added that past crises cannot be counted on to predict how the terrorists attacks might affect circulation and ad sales at newsmagazines.

“These are completely uncharted waters,” he said. “We have never seen something of this magnitude before.”

U.S. News & World Report also saw a negative impact in its own advertising efforts after dropping a direct mail piece the day before the attacks. Susan Blattman, senior vice president of consumer marketing at U.S. News & World Report, New York, would not divulge details of the campaign, such as a response rate adjusted to the current national mood.

“We are not hopeful, obviously, because of the timing,” she said.

Meanwhile, other Quebecor magazine clients such as Forbes, Vogue, GQ and Good Housekeeping called the printer near deadlines during the crisis to have it hold the presses for editorial changes or complete content makeovers.

“Some of them were actually at the binding stage of the process and had to start over,” Paloian said. “Everyone wanted to make, of course, at least some kind of mention of the attacks.”

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