Magazine Print Ad Sales Decline

Every fashionista worth her Balenciaga bag knows that the September issue of her glossy magazine is the most critical issue of the year, complementing the hype from New York City’s Fashion Week with cold-weather ensemble suggestions featuring the newest fall styles. The September issue traditionally expands from approximately 300 pages to somewhere over 700 pages (or 840 pages, according to the most recent record set by Vogue in 2007). Naturally, the September issue of any fashion magazine is the one that sells the most copies, and correspondingly sells the most interior magazine ads. It is these print ads which largely finance the continued production of the magazine.

Which is exactly why it’s such a grave concern that the past two years have shown a steady decline in magazine ad sales, which culminated in the dramatically dangerous dip in sales this year. Many magazines showed up to a 22% decrease in ad sales from recent years, including a loss in the double digits for some of the most well-known fashion and beauty magazines. This year, Anna Wintour oversaw a quick-fix brainstorm where funds were spent encasing the slimmer-than-usual September issue of Vogue in wrappings with a chic leather handle and buckle-clasp, proclaiming, “CAUTION (still) HEAVY.” Tongue-in-cheek, it was a clever sales gimmick–but only a temporary band-aid on the much more permanent (and far more solemn) problem of decreased ad sales.

And it’s not just fashion magazines that are suffering. From National Geographic to Scientific American, all magazines are feeling the drought. In fact, all print ad sales have dropped an average of 30% since last year. In an economy where newspapers across the country are closing down on a regular basis, the magazine industry must be apprehensive about its own future. Advertising experts caution that magazines should take heed of their recent losses. Magazines are advised not to cut their losses and bury their heads in the sand, blaming the economy and waiting for the slump to pass. One of the more likely culprits is the world’s increased wariness about its investments; caution has moved investors to examine new and alternative advertising options in pursuit of more aggressive and traceable ROI–such as web and mobile marketing.

This may also be why digital revenue for magazines is on the rise, with income from non-static sources doubling between 2006 and 2007 alone (presumably in direct proportion to a greater overall effort by magazines to modernize). And it’s advised that magazines continue seeking cutting-edge alternatives for their marketing strategies. Through interactive marketing, magazines will be able to rebuild relationships with their audiences in a new, modern way-before the chance is lost for good. In the past year, newsstand magazine sales have decreased by an estimated 12%. Better-than-ever subscription costs simply haven’t been enough to salvage proceeds in this economy. With competition from online blogs, newsletters and, well, digital magazines, it seems like print magazines are going to have to sharply redirect their focus and funds if they hope to survive.

Hopefully, they will embrace digital solutions and come up with smart, strategic plans to save print magazines from extinction. Because tech-savvy as readers are today, it’s still just not as easy or rewarding to flip through a laptop from a cabana chair on the beach.