The tsunami that swamped the newspaper industry in 2008 appears to be spreading to the magazine business. “Virtually every major magazine is experiencing an often-substantial decline in ad pages,” says MediaPost, citing year-to-date numbers.
“Substantial” is being kind. Look at these ad page declines in 2009: Among women’s titles, Allure, Lucky, and Vogue are all down over 30%, and W is down 44%. Among magazines targeting men, Power & Motoryacht is down 63%, Boating down 49%, Automobile down 43%, and Motor Trend and Road & Track both off more than 31%.
In the lifestyle category, Details is down 38%, Maxim off 33.5% and GQ down 32%. Spin down 28%, Vibe off 39%, Gourmet off 46% and Bon Appetit down 34.5%.
Of 118 titles tracked by Media Industry Newsletter (MIN) Online, only eight saw year-to-year growth from 2008 to 2009. The rest continued a pattern of decline that began in 2007, and the rate of drop-off is accelerating. Subscribers are also beginning to flee the venerable titles in droves. Among the titles seeing year-over-year circulation losses of more than 10% are Reader’s Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and Redbook. And that’s not factoring in the deeply discounted subscription rates that publishers are using to lure subscribers these days.
Last Gasp for Newsweek?
“Newsweek executives are gambling that advertisers will support the equivalent of shifting from beer to wine,” writes the Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz, summing up a major redesign of the weekly newsmagazine that appeared this week. Newsweek is cutting its circulation in half to 1.5 million, increasing both its subscription and cover prices and adopting an editorial profile looks like the Economist: lengthy, opinionated pieces analyzing national and international affairs. Gone are the summaries of weekly news that have long defined the category.
“The staff doesn’t understand it,” says editor Jon Meacham, but Newsweek really has little choice. The age of mass media is giving way to the era of targeting, and even 1.5 million subscribers may be too many to serve effectively. Newsweek is on a run rate to lose $20 million a quarter, so this is probably a last gasp for the 76-year-old newsmagazine. Time, with a circulation of 3.25 million, now stands alone in the category of broad, general purpose weeklies that once dominated the newsstands. It’s still on track to deliver a “substantial profit,” this year, although even Time has also reduced its circulation base, although less dramatically than its competitor, from a peak of over 4 million.
It’s interesting that clicking on the link to the story in the Post, whose parent company owns Newsweek, delivers a pop-up ad for the Economist, which is the one weekly newsmagazine that seems to have gotten it right.
Wired Stuck in the Middle
And what about Wired, the hip digital lifestyle magazine that chronicled the dot-com revolution? Surely it has figured out how to bridge the print-digital divide. Nope. Its business is in the tank, and even Chris Anderson, the new-economy guru editor whose books have foreseen foretold the emergence of hyper targeted media and free content, doesn’t seem to know what to do.
Ad pages are off 50% this year, making Wired the third worst performer among the 150 magazines tracked by MIN. The problem may be systemic. Wired serves the digerati, whose natural preference is online media. The publication’s website is operated almost entirely independent of the magazine, and despite multiple design awards, the print version of Wired has been unable to find the popular appeal that could make it a million-circ powerhouse. At 704,000 subscribers, it’s one of the smallest magazines in the Condé Nast portfolio. It lacks the scale to support giant branding campaigns by luxury products, but is too large to deliver efficiency for smaller advertisers. It’s an uncomfortable place to be: in the middle. And Condé Nast, which has already shuttered two major titles this year, is probably not in the position to invest in it.
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 7:15 am and is filed under Circulation, NewMedia, OnlineMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.