Magazine Ad Plunge: 'The Worst Is Behind Us'
26 january 2009 | 16:55
A ray of light may be shining on the consumer magazine industry following one of its worst years of advertising page declines in recorded history, according to a leading Wall Street analyst. "The worst of the magazine page declines appears behind us," Deutsche Bank analyst Matt Chesler predicted in a report sent to investors of Meredith Corp., one of the largest "pure play" magazine publishers, whose stock he tracks.
While official first quarter estimates will not be available from the Publishers Information Bureau for at least several weeks, Chesler estimated that overall magazine ad pages will decline 19% in February and 21% for the first quarter of 2009 vs. the same periods in 2008. His analysis projects the erosion of magazine ad pages will moderate, to -16% in the second quarter and -12% in the third quarter as demand from advertisers begins to stabilize toward year-end.
According to official industry estimates from the PIB, magazine ad pages plummeted 17% in the fourth quarter of 2008, marking the worst in a series of downward quarterly progressions last year. Ad pages were down 12.9% during the third quarter, -8.2% in the second quarter and -6.4% in the first quarter of 2008.
That was not a good year-end harbinger for a medium that traditionally cuts calendar year deals at the end of each year, and the projections coming from Deutsche Bank's Chesler bear that out.
On a bright note for Meredith, Chesler says the publisher is beating the industry trend by a significant margin. Its pages declined only 7% in February, for example, less than half the industry -19% rate of ad page erosion that month.
"Whereas Meredith's ad pages declines led the magazine industry throughout much of calendar 2008 (due to over-indexing to key categories such as food & beverage, pharma and home), the company has now outperformed the industry significantly over the past two months," Chesler opined, adding a cautionary note, "However, we do not think we are nearing the end of Meredith's ad pages declines given our channel checks with media buyers and Deutsche Bank's macro economic outlook. Also, the [comparisons] are easing."
In fact, the magazine ad recession hasn't been much kinder on Meredith than any other consumer publishers, and it recently took its toll in the closure of 1.25 million circulation Country Home magazine," which Chesler said was not surprising, "given the broad fall-out in the shelter category due to the housing downturn," and noting similar foreclosures at Hearst's O at Home, Hachette Filipacchi's Home and Time Inc.'s Cottage Living magazines.