The weak recovery in consumer magazine publishing appears to have lost its momentum, judging by the latest figures from the Publisher’s Information Bureau, which show total ad pages declining 5.6% in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year. This follows anemic growth in the second quarter, when ad pages were basically flat with a 0.3% increase, and a 2.5% increase in the first quarter.
For the year to date, ad pages are down 1.1%.
Ad page declines in the third quarter were fairly widespread, with 134 out of 210 titles tracked by PIB (63.8%) showing year-over-year drops. Losses also tended to be relatively steep: 60 titles experienced drops of less than 10%, but 74 experienced losses of 10% or more, and 32 of these saw ad pages fall 20% or more.
The decline was spread across a number of magazine categories, although some did better than others. Many health and fitness titles experienced drops, with Health down 29.4% to 160.5 ad pages, Men’s Health down 19.5% to 149 ad pages, Prevention down 24.7% to 176 ad pages, and Women’s Health down 22.1% to 118 ad pages.
Cooking and epicurean titles took their hits as well. Substantial declines were seen at Cooking Light, down 20.5% to 256 ad pages in the third quarter; Every Day with Rachael Ray, down 34.7% to 106 pages; Everyday Food, down 28.9% to 61.5 pages; Food & Wine, down 14.4% to 266 ad pages; and Saveur, down 18.8% to 48 ad pages. On the positive side, Food Network Magazine saw ad pages jump 33.2% 210 ad pages.
Total ad pages have declined sharply since the beginning of the economic downturn. According to the PIB, consumer magazines boasted 173,501 ad pages in the first nine months of 2006. The figure for the first nine months of 2011 is 117,567 -- down 32.2% from five years ago.