No doubt about it: The fact that consumer magazine ad pages in the U.S. dropped 11.7% in 2008 is scary. The story underscores the precariousness of this ad-supported business during recessionary periods. It underscores the very real challenges publishers and ad sales people everywhere will face going into 2009 as companies in almost every sector scale back their spending. And it underscores the fact that there are almost certainly more layoffs, more circulation and frequency cuts and more magazine deaths coming in the weeks and months ahead.
But while it’s important for Canadian magaziners to keeps tabs on what happening south of the border (through publications such Folio:, MediaPost and our own Mag News Around the Web feature), it’s also important to remember the vast size gap between the Canadian and American publishing industries.
Consider automotive consumer magazine advertising in the U.S. Once the leading category for American mags, auto advertising declined by a whopping 20.5% in 2008, after falling 6.3% in 2007, 13.8% in 2006 and 7.1% in 2005 (thanks to Ad Age for doing the math).
So, after all the drops, how much was actually spent by American auto advertisers in 2008? $1.67 billion. What’s the total worth of the Canadian magazine industry, according to the admittedly dated Statistics Canada survey from 2003-2004? $1.5 billion.
Even if that number is probably closer to $2 billion today, the comparison still helps put things into perspective: A single, desperately suffering American ad category is worth nearly as much, if not more, than the entire Canadian magazine industry’s combined revenues.
My point: Be cautious when comparing your own magazine or company with magazines and companies in the U.S. It's a different world down there.