Automobile Leads Epic Ad Decline

The latest numbers from the Fab Four show an epic drop in ad revenues and pages. Leading the meltdown is Automobile showing a 30% decline in ad dollars and a whopping 34% reduction in pages. Figures are for the second quarter 2009 compared to the same period 2008 as charted by MPA.

For the four titles combined, we’re talking a collective 24% drop in ad dollars and a 30% drop in ad pages.

Fab Four’s collective circ show a parallel decline (see related post), but ad dollars are where the rubber meats the road, the most critical effect on consumer titles’ health than paid advertising. We’re seeing the impact of new media together with a crappy economy combined with AWOL advertisers, notably car makers’ own host of negative news. No, I won’t say it again (perfect storm, ouch), but you get my drift.

The Fab aren’t immune to the downturn. AutoWeek posted a 30% drop in pages, Hot Rod a 17% reduction, and Robb Report a massive 37% decline in most likely due to its core nouveau riche constituency opting out.

What’s more, these figures represent ad commitments, or in accounting parlance, Accounts Receivable. Officially posted ad rev’s are not reflective of 100% cash-in simply due to the harsh reality that some advertisers pay late or won’t pay at all, making already bad numbers worse.

Auto pubs’ attempts at eZines continues to fail to wean consumers from more effect online destinations. Namely, eBay and Craigslist for commerce, and the wealth of information sites with highly concentrated and free info for the taking.

No doubt, Automobile is on the ropes. The lowest circ and worst revenue showing of the Fab Four at well below half the level of market leader Car & Driver ina highly challenged environment that simply cannot support four competing and overlapping titles. Maybe its time for parent Source Interlink to consolidate Automobile with Motor Trend , or discharge the sub liability to C&D or R&T? Or pack up and go home?

However, a good argument can be made that the four-place finisher might have sufficient legs to get back up and run. To understand that possibility one must evaluate the title’s editorial traction, quality of readership, and ad performance. I’d like to know Automobile’s renewal rate and new sub conversion figures! But maybe even that’s too complicated. Can today’s shrinking pool of paid readers and ad dollars, and an increasing proportion of web-enabled readers, represent the kind of climate favorable to four big kids on the block?

We’ve seen this movie before: CDs, personal computers, encyclopedias, buggy whips. The future is the history you don’t know.

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  1. Ford revenues are up and there’s signs of improvement in the auto sector along with your stock market. Maybe a turnaround will save these blokes?

  2. Lisa O’Brien, Circulation Manager at AutoWeek, forwarded the following comments regarding this posting:

    In reading through the following article posted on your site; Automobile Leads Epic Ad Decline, it was noted that AutoWeek posted a 30% drop in ad pages.

    If you take a direct comparison of 2nd Qtr ’09 ad pages vs. 2nd Qtr ’08 ad pages we are down exactly 30%. However this is not an accurate measurement based on the fact we had 12 issues in the 2nd Qtr of ’08 vs. 7 issues in the 2nd Qtr of ’09. A more accurate measurement is our average ad pages/issue, which is actually up 20% when you compare 2nd Qtr ’09 (13.6 pages/issue) vs. 2nd Qtr ’08 (11.3 pages/issue). All of the above figures reflect Display and Insert pages only.

    Thanks for the clarification, Lisa!

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