After a disappointing first quarter and brutal recession, magazine ad pages finally seem to be heading into positive territory.
Industry advertising pages fell 9.4 percent in the first quarter, per Publishers Information Bureau, in contrast to many publishers’ statements that the ad climate was improving.
Moving into the second quarter, however, pages are trending up, according to a survey of major publishing houses.
After a flat first quarter, Hearst expected to report an 8.2 percent increase in magazine ad pages (excluding Food Network Magazine) for the first half of the year.
Condé Nast expects to post a 3.7 percent increase for its monthlies in the first half, with nine of 16 titles recording gains.
Time Inc. said it would be up about 6 percent in ad pages in the same period. Meredith estimated in a conference call that magazine ad revenue would be flat to up slightly in the second quarter.
“I’m encouraged,” said Lou Cona, evp, Condé Nast Media Group. “We’re seeing an increase in ad budgets. Companies that were completely focused on driving sales are now reintroducing brand-building measures into their media mix.”
Publishing execs said the gains were coming from a range of ad categories.
“We’re seeing it in beauty, packaged goods, primarily, but we’re also seeing some rebound in automotive,” said Michael Clinton, Hearst’s evp, chief marketing officer and publishing director. “A bit of the luxury market’s beginning to come back.”
Bright spots among titles include Condé Nast’s Wired, up 19.7 percent; and Teen Vogue, up 14.6 percent. Time Inc.’s Real Simple and Cooking Light, which redesigned last year, will be up an estimated 32 percent and 21 percent, respectively. InStyle will be up 18 percent driven by a 20 percent uptick in luxury ads.
And while how much the Apple iPad and other tablets will help magazines over the long haul remains anyone’s guess, some titles are starting to see a related paging bump.
Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair said ad programs tied to its launch on the iPad helped drive an 11.6 percent paging increase for the first half. Wired also cited its iPad edition as a factor in its first-half increase.
Not all are sharing in the gains. Many shelter and luxury ad-dependent books remain soft, as do travel and men’s lifestyle titles. Condé Nast’s W declined 13.8 percent for the first half and Details, 9.3 percent. Time Inc. said its News Group would be down due to a decrease in issues at Fortune.
Indeed, publishing execs still sounded a cautious note. “The economy seems to be tentative,” Condé Nast’s Cona said. “A lot of our business ties in to how the economy continues to do.”