Tina Brown’s Newsweek Big Winner, Oprah Big Loser in Magazine Ad-Page Race

It’s a rough quarter for the consumer magazine sector with ad pages dropping 8.2 percent

Last Updated: April 13, 2012 @ 12:20 PM

Grim news for the struggling magazine industry and the once invulnerable Oprah Winfrey brand. 

Advertising sales softened over the first quarter of 2012, with the consumer magazine sector shouldering an 8.2 percent drop in ad pages, according to a new report from the Publishers Information Bureau.

It is an indication that print publications have yet to recover from the economic downturn like the television industry.

In stark contrast, analysts are predicting record-high pricing at the 2012-13 television upfront thanks to a surge in automotive advertising. 

For Oprah Winfrey, the sluggish ad sales are further evidence of cracks in her self-empowerment  empire, with her O! The Oprah Magazine suffering a 24.1 percent drop in ad pages to 213.83 pages.

The former daytime television queen's struggling OWN network has recently undergone layoffs amid reports that  it could lose an estimated $142.9 million this year.

Also read: Oprah Network Likely to Lose $142.9M This Year, SNL Kagan Says

There were some bright spots in an otherwise gloomy report, however. Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown's controversial overhaul of Newsweek appears to be bearing some fruit. The more celebrity-centric periodical saw its ad pages jump 27.5 percent to 183.26 over the quarter.

In contrast, Newsweek's rival Time saw a 20.9 percent decline in ad pages to 227.01 pages.

That probably means more "Mad Men" themed issues await Newsweek subscribers, while readers seeking updates on Darfur can head on over to The Economist (4.8 percent drop in ad pages). 

Brown has been pushing back at reports that the publications she oversees suffered $30 million in losses last year since merging with the Daily Beast. In a recent interview on "Nightline," Brown labelled the speculation "excessive," although she did say the publications were still in the red. 

Women's magazine and lifestyle titles like Martha Stewart Living (34.2 percent drop in ad pages) and Ladies' Home Journal (16.8 percent drop), as well as harder news titles like The Atlantic (6.7 percent drop) and The Week (31.5 percent drop) were bruised during the first three months of the year.

Venerable publications such as Wired (16 percent drop), Sports Illustrated (5.2 percent drop) and New Yorker (8 percent drop) also struggled to keep pace. 

Overall, the number of ad pages fell to 33,827.70 pages down from 36,868.25 pages in the same quarter last year. Seventy percent of the 218 titles surveyed suffered ad page declines.

Of the handful bucking that trend, several top-shelf business publications had a strong first quarter. Forbes increased its ad pages 7.4 percent to 330.83 pages, Fortune saw an 8.1 percent jump to 272.14 pages, while Bloomberg Business Week enjoyed an 8.2 percent climb to 338.86 pages.