Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Morning Brief: U.S. consumer magazines see continued slippage in print ad pages in Q1, though rate of declines moderate; Fairfax execs prove rather thin skinned

If magazine publishers were hoping that 2013 would open with a bang many were sorely disappointed as the MPA's PIB report showed that ad pages fell 4.9 percent in Q1. On the bright side, the decline was the smallest in a while, as publishers saw ad pages fall 8.2 percent in 2012, and 3.2 percent in 2011.

Some titles saw good growth in Q1: AARP-The Magazine was up 11.5 percent, Allure was up 8.2, Bon Appetit up 37.7 percent, Eating Well up 35.8 percent, GQ up 11.2 percent, Harper's Bazaar up 23.4 percent, Motor Trend up 31.6 percent, and Women's Health up 24.4 percent.

Magazine titles that saw declines include Architectural Digest down 15.5 percent, Bloomberg Businessweek 32.6 percent, Bride's 49.9 percent, The Economist down 28.6 percent, Forbes down 19.6 percent, Road & Track down 42.6 percent, and Shape down 19.5 percent.

The MPA, in its own post on the report, stressed that magazines "now encompass myriad of platforms," and there is a lot of truth in that statement. Unfortunately, with most larger consumer magazines producing tablet editions that duplicate the ads seen in print, there is not much evidence that print magazines are seeing ad gains in their digital editions. On the other hand, the industry now has a growing segment that remains invisible to most reports: digital-only publications that have new advertising appearing in interactive forms. My guess that compared to print, these digital ads are not amounting to a great deal of "space" and probably even less revenue. Nonetheless, this is a growing area.

"Today’s rubbishy “First Person” sponsored editorial in The Australian Financial Review is a perfect example of why the business sections of The Sydney Herald and The Age should not be merged with the Financial Review Group — a decision announced by Fairfax last week," wrote Paddy Manning, a business journalist with Fairfax about the advertorial.

The column appeared on Crikey, an Australian electronic magazine. Unfortunately for Mr. Manning, the digital magazine is not one of those industry sites no one reads (like TNM). As a result, Manning was sacked by his employer, according ABC News (Australia).

I don't know what to say about this other than it seems odd that a media executive would be so thin skinned about an opinion piece. I mean, really?

I'm sure there were a lot of Apple followers who were very curious about what its senior vice president of Apple Retail, Ron Johnson, could do for J.C. Penney. But after only 17 months at the helm, the company’s board has replaced Johnson with Myron E. Ullman III, the former CEO of the company. It is a head scratching move by the retailer, which many thought was eager to make big changes - but then again, maybe the old brand really wasn't that ready.

In any case, now the talk is whether Johnson will return to Apple. Knowing corporate politics my guess is that the new Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will probably say "gee, Ron, guess that move didn't work out. Well, best of luck to you."