It’s a given that 2009 was a particularly bad year for media ad spending, and the latest figures from the Publisher’s Information Bureau shows just how bad it was for consumer magazines. In total, mags’ ad pages dropped 25.6 percent last year. Among the better known titles, U.S News & World Report performed the worst, with ad pages down a staggering 81.3 percent, though that is probably due to the fact in ’09 they switched publishing frequency to biweekly instead of weekly (only two other pubs, which were shuttered in early ’09, did worse: Disney’s kids title Wondertime, which saw pages fall 86.2 percent and Power Cruising, which plunged 87.7 percent).
Updated: It should be pointed out that those numbers were skewed in part by the fact that U.S News & World Report became a monthly beginning in 2009, while Wondertime and Power Cruising both went out of business. In an e-mailed statement to paidContent, US News & World Report’s president William Holiber added that the magazine left the Magazine Publishers Association, the industry trade organ that oversees the PIB, in mid-2009, and that the bureau stopped collecting information on our ad pages at that time.
Most other titles’ ad pages didn’t even come close to those dismal figures. Turning to ad dollars — which should be taken with a huge grain of salt, since theses number don’t reflect the discounts publishers typically offer — the drop off was 18 percent compared to 2008. There wasn’t one positive number across the 12 ad categories listed by the PIB, as all reported ad page declines last year. The most significant losses were in financial, insurance and real estate (down 41.4 percent) and automotive (down 40.5).
Among leading publishers, Condé Nast’s titles reflect how the other major pubs did last year. For example, Vanity Fair fell 32.8 percent, while sibling Vogue slid 31.2 percent, while Wired dropped 39.6 percent.
While the weekly news segment has been struggling for some time, the results of both Time magazine and Newsweek were relatively in line with the average consumer title’s ad pages last year. Time actually did a little better, falling 17.4 percent, while Newsweek was off by 23.9 percent.
Within the weekly news category, business news has looked increasingly bleak for the last two years. It will be interesting to see whether BusinessWeek, which switched ownership from McGraw Hill to Bloomberg last month, will be able to turn things around from last year’s 33.8 percent decline — although those numbers were similar to rivals Forbes (down 30.2 percent) and Fortune (dropped 36 percent).