December 15, 2006

News Magazines Stumbling to the Finish Line in 2006

Ad Pages
Atlantic -3
Economist 0.1
Jet 0.1
National Journal 15.5
New Yorker -13.4
Newsweek -0.3
Time 0.6
U.S. News 2.7
The Week -3.7

After a down advertising year in 2005 for many news magazines, 2006 is not looking noticeably better – at least through November. Most of the big news titles are either seeing losses or only small increases in ad pages. A strong December could change the picture somewhat, but it seems safe to say that 2006 won’t go down as a big year for the news magazines’ bottom lines.

Among the big three news titles, U.S. News & World Report—which sells far fewer pages than its two major competitors—led the way with an increase of 2.7% in ad pages for the first 11 months of 2006 compared with the same period last year. Time registered an increase of just over a half percent (.6%) over 2005, while Newsweek saw a slight drop of just under a half a percent (minus .3%). What’s more those anemic numbers follow a disappointing 2005, when Time’s and Newsweek’s ad pages dropped by 12% and 11% respectively compared with 2004. U.S. News saw a smaller decline of .6% in 2005. (Both Time and Newsweek have announced newsstand price increases slated to go into effect next year.)

Of the other news titles that the PEJ tracks, the New Yorker has had the roughest 2006 with a decline in ad pages of 13.4% through November. The Economist is basically flat ( a .1% increase). Even The Week, an industry success story over the past few years, looks like it is headed for a down 2006, with ad pages decreasing 3.7%. The good news for these three magazines it is that they are all growing their circulation, which may allow them to increase their advertising rates.

If there is one bright spot amidst the bleak numbers in the news magazine category, it is the Washington policy weekly National Journal, which has seen ad pages jump by 15.5% through November. One theory is that the Beltway-based chronicler of Capitol Hill reaped the benefits of a long and heated midterm election season.