Insights and Opinions

No, Magazines Aren't Dying

For decades, consumer magazines were pretty much the only way for CPG companies to reach a large audience of women making purchase decisions in a contextually relevant way.

But then came 2009's "Black September" (see table below) -- where nearly every magazine's revenues shrunk, during a month when magazines typically pull in 20-40 percent of their annual revenues. And this tells us what? Simply put, marketers are now finding those audiences in other places too -- and big changes are in the air.

Top 10 women's magazines Ad Page Growth Rate 2009

Systemic Shift, Not Cyclical

In a recent Ad Age article, Martin Cass, president of Carat in the U.S., said, "Great [magazine] brands will make it through and find ways forward, but everyone needs to understand that this is systemic, not cyclical. Those people who close their eyes and say it will be all right when it comes back, well, good luck with that."

Certainly some of the drop can be attributed to the general advertising cutback. But as I said -- that's only "some." Advertisers are spending most of their money in new places -- from advertising in store, on mobile, and on the 800-pound gorilla called the Internet. The recession just accelerated the shift from traditional media to digital.

"I don't think ad pages will return to 2007 levels," said Greg Warren, president for client services at MediaVest USA. "The recession triggered relooking at everything. This has just been a scouring of everything. And definitely being singled out as at most risk."

The Warning Signs Were There

Even before the economic collapse in the 4th quarter of 2008, magazine circulation had been at best flat for four years. This table outlines monthly circulation for the top women's magazines from 2005 through 2008.

18 women's magazines Ad Page Growth Rate 2008

Some fared better than others, but essentially circulation for this category is flat. Why? Competition. Women are dividing their attention across other mediums -- which has led some to proclaim that magazines are dead or dying. I don't think so. But I do think we're seeing a media allocation balancing act taking place, and that magazine advertising revenues will find it very difficult to get back to pre-digital era levels.

- Emrah Kovacoglu, Founder and CEO, Total Beauty Media, Inc.