Tech and Retail Weaken Ad Revenue, but Not for Everyone

The magazine industry hasn’t had a very good start to the year. Specifically, publishers saw first quarter ad revenues weaken for both the tech and retail sectors.

Overall, the number of print magazine ad pages fell by 4% in the first quarter of 2014. Their digital counterparts didn’t fare much better. They saw a 7% dip in first quarter results.

Most of the page loss was because of a decline in two sectors: tech and retail. The decline in tech is attributable to a huge pullback on the part of Microsoft. That company actually inflated the 2013 ad numbers with a huge buy focused on a product launch. Since that has been scaled back, the overall numbers have seen a significant dip.

In the retail sector, giants like J.C. Penney and Target have also reigned in advertising spending.

“There were pockets of strength and pockets of challenges,” says MPA president and CEO Mary Berner. “When you look across 196 magazines, one of the biggest declines, in retail, was due to two accounts pulling back. There’s a lot of noise underneath the numbers both good and bad.”

Hit Hard

Women’s magazines were hit particularly hard. These include Redbook, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, and Women’s Day. Those magazines saw ad pages decline a full 20%. Martha Stewart Living was hit even harder, with a 35% drop in ad pages.

There was good news and bad news for fashion magazines. Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and InStyle all saw ad pages increase. Magazines Vogue, W, Allure, and Elle saw ad pages decline slightly. Teen Vogue saw a 17% drop in ad pages.

Bright Spots

However, there were some bright spots in the magazine industry.

Shelter magazines, for example, are seeing a spike in advertising thanks to renewed interest in home furnishings. Architectural Digest, Veranda, Traditional Home, and Coastal Living enjoyed a nice bump in ad pages. HGTV Magazine saw a 24% jump in advertising.

Travel magazines also did well. Condé Nast Traveler saw a 12% jump while Travel + Leisure enjoyed a 15% increase. Best of all was Afar, which saw a whopping 33% spike in print ads.

Yes, it has been an abysmal first quarter for much of the magazine industry. However, the increase in ad pages for some publications shows that there is still money to be made in magazine advertising.

Revenue development in the online era can no longer be staked solely on advertising. But a smart advertising strategy that includes print and web advertising can be effective for advertisers and can ultimately assist other revenue streams, like sponsored content, subscriptions, and custom job boards.

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