Thursday, January 20, 2011

Morning Brief: Looking at magazine ad performance; ESPN releases commemorative app for BCS champs

The numbers are pretty much in and it turns out that 2010 magazine performance was pretty much what I expected: some magazine showed a good bounce back, while many others either showed continued declines, or a flatting out.

Both the consumer and B2B magazines saw ad pages sold at about the same level as 2009. While it is good to see the declines end, it needs to be remembered that 2009 was a disaster. So if 2010 pretty much equals 2009, and 2009 was a disaster, that would mean 2010 was a bad year, right?

Elle D├ęcor was one of the best performing magazines
in 2010 with ad pages up over 35%.

Well, it certainly did not feel that way to many publishers. As MediaPost recounts in their thorough look at consumer magazines, there were quite a number of titles that enjoyed strong bounces in their numbers. While each magazine has its own individual story to tell, the 2010 results simply confirm what I predicted a year ago: good titles that are well positioned and well managed and staffed will see good growth in 2010, while the weaker titles, or in some cases, the poorly positioned or managed titles will continue to struggle. What is important to keep in mind, though, is not the percentages of growth or decline experienced in 2010, but the health of the magazine going into the year.

In B2B, where many more magazines were on the edge going into 2010, the year proved to be another kick-the-can-down-the-road kind of year for many publishers as they did just about anything to stay alive -- except recognize that their publishing strategies were not working. As a result, many magazines had their BPA audits stopped, staffs continue to be reduced, etc.

I really have no predictions for magazines in 2011 other than the obvious: things will continue to be tough for magazines that have been weakened by reduced editorial and sales teams, while others will continue to see a rebound. Overall, 2011 should be a stronger year, but weak titles are still hanging by a thread and no rebound in the economy will save a poorly managed book -- this is not the late nineties, sorry.

AdAge's Nat Ives looks at the decline in magazine newsstands and says that magazines "had better hope they get a nice prominent digital newsstand on the tablets flooding the market, because their bricks-and-mortar retail outlets are continuing to disappear." 'Nuff said, but Ives has the ugly numbers.

Ever notice that only days after the conclusion of the World Series or Super Bowl Sports Illustrated will be on the air promoting a commemorative edition of the magazine that celebrates the victors? Maybe with the price of the commemorative edition you get a cap or T-shirt or something.

Well, now ESPN has done the same thing with an app! ESPN Presents: BCS Champs capitalizes on the victory of the Auburn Tigers over the University of Oregon in the final college bowl game of the 2010 season. This iPad app costs $4.99 and features a replay of the actual game (the rather modestly named Tostitos BCS National Championship Game), video highlights from ESPN, and interviews with and features on the Auburn players and coaches. Then there is Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN's NFL draft guru -- God only knows why he's there.

As silly as all this may sound, an iPad app that features a replay of the actual game seems like a pretty cool idea even if the prospects for such a product is just the winning side. But I guess very few fans of Oregon would be up for an app that says "watch your team lose again!"