Even the Economist Isn’t Immune: Business and News Magazine Ad Pages Fall off the Cliff 3

On Tuesday the Publishers Information Bureau released its 2009 year-end magazine advertising report. Not surprisingly the report revealed that ad pages during the Media Meltdown of 2009 were down 25.6 percent for the industry, while estimated revenues closed at $19.45 billion, a drop of 18.1 percent.

Compare this with the 11.7 percent in ad pages that dropped from 2007 – 2008 and the 17.5% percent drop in revenue during that time period.

Looking closer at key news and business magazines (the ones that still remain in print and open for business), it was a dreadful year in revenues and lost ad pages for their print businesses. BusinessWeek, which changed hands to Bloomberg’s control in 2009, was one of the biggest losers in-terms of ad pages for business magazines with a 33% drop-off. U.S News, which cut back on print to bi-weekly and then monthly in 2009, was the biggest loser in ad pages for “news magazines” with an 81% drop. Newsweek, which tried to become more like the Economist to push off its eventual death, dropped 25% in ad pages. This was worse than its 19% ad page drop as a true “news weekly” in 2008, but alas it was also during a far worse market.

Forbes more than doubled its ad page drop, increasing to 30% in 2009 from a 14% drop in 2008. Fortune had an even worse year as it prepares to shrink the number of issues it releases down from 25 to 18 in 2010. While its ad pages were nearly even between 2007 and 2008, it witnessed a 36% drop in ad pages for 2009.

The Economist, which somehow managed to actually grow ad pages by 4.4% in 2008, wasn’t immune this year either. Its ad pages dropped more than 20% as well in 2009.

All of this is very interesting, but the larger question is how long will these numbers even matter? 2010 will undoubtedly be the year that the pay-wall returns to Internet and larger revenue percentages shift from print to online. Soon the numbers here will only be a footnote, or perhaps non-existent, as print operations cease across the industry. So how will we calculate? Digital eReader ad pages anybody?

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