House and Garden. Blueprint. Domino. Country Home. These magazine titles shuttered in the last 15 months could be the first in a long string of failures, if this quarter's ad page reports are any indication (the number of ad pages is widely referred to in the industry as a sign of the profitability of a magazine). The declines are startling and likely to bring up all kinds of reminders of the real definition of "decimating" (which means to decrease by 1/10th; although its root in the terrible Roman military practice of having every tenth man killed by stoning, carried out by his fellow soldiers, might be more appropriate). The declines are not, as the New York Post writes, a decimation, no, they are far more devastating: monthly magazines saw a 21.5% decrease from the first quarter of 2008, with newsweeklies down in between a third and a half.
Coming in last among the biggies: Time, down 47.7% since this time last year. Newsweek is down 37.6%; BusinessWeek is down 34.8%. It seems likely that some of the mighty will fall; I speculated last month that Martha Stewart Living might be in trouble; it's certain that newspapers are doing poorly. Without ad sales, it's hard to stay in business. Real Simple, Vogue, Playboy and New York Magazine have all been noticed for their obvious lack of ads; any of these could be putting out "going out of business" signs soon.
What's not closing? Sports Illustrated is doing great, with its annual Swimsuit Issue setting ad page records. Family and kids' mags are doing well, as are other adult titles like Penthouse. And Motorcyclist is up 9.4%. Is the focus on motorcycling, ogling women in swimsuits, and spending time with kids a sign of the economy, or a larger, deeper introspection into our changing culture? What do you think?
More magazine closures sure to come as ads decline