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Marty’s Marketing Minutia

This week's assortment of news, views and schmooze.

by on Mar.27, 2009

Are Buff Books Becoming An Endangered Species?

Buff books no longer are flying high.

Buff books of all types no longer are flying high.

Hachette Filipacchi, the mega magazine publisher (owned by the French company Lagardere SCA) earlier this week announced it was offering several well known enthusiast publications — American Photo, Boating, Cycle World, Flying, Popular Photography and Sound & Vision for sale at “distressed” prices, according to the Delaney Report, a magazine industry newsletter.

Additionally, executives from France are in the U.S. “streamlining,” a synonym for cutting, slashing and reducing costs. 

What does the future hold for HF’s auto publications and the other auto-centric magazines? Based on the vital signs – ad income, ad pages and circulation – these are not healthy consumer sources of automotive information, reviews and of course big buck advertising programs.

Let’s look at the numbers from Publishers Information Bureau’s most recent report for a diagnosis and prognosis of advertising income and ad pages:

Automotive Magazines Analysis 2008 to 2007

 

2008

2007

 

2008

2007

 

Publication

Dollars

Dollars

%CHG

Pages

Pages

%CHG

Automobile Magazine

73,024,510

79,604,656

-8.3

799.42

922.58

-13.3

Autoweek

40,055,050

42,938,529

-6.7

1,157.26

1,262.80

-8.4

Car And Driver

204,744,583

219,934,948

-6.9

1,031.03

1,162.25

-11.3

Motor Trend

170,285,622

181,343,379

-6.1

1,097.73

1,242.92

-11.7

Road & Track

126,185,293

132,660,929

-4.9

1,086.33

1,196.52

-9.2

Robb Report

45,313,543

45,973,395

-1.4

1,604.98

1,762.84

-9.0

Magazine Totals

$659,608,601

702,455,836

-34.3

6,776.8

7,549.9

-62.8

But they are not alone as forlorn objects on newsstands or in doctor’s waiting rooms.  The top ten automotive magazines as defined by Audit Bureau of Circulations, the bible of magazine circulation and page rates, details a fairly consistent level of circulation with Car and Driver the leader with 1.4 million readers, Motor Trend has 1.1 million subscribers, followed by Road & Track at 768,000, with Automobile Magazine 567,000, while numbers for AW were not available.

As most advertising media mavens acknowledge, these circulation numbers show a relatively high cost per thousand (CPM) compared to other mediums. While a loyal group of auto fans, they do not represent a major factor in the marketplace, except in a historical perspective. Stable circulation numbers but a loss in ad revenue and ad pages does not represent a healthy situation, which explains the drop in support by the auto ad big guns. It’s not working as well as it once did.

Other print domiciles with minimal auto related editorial content but with male content that once garnered hefty automotive advertising buys include Time, Newsweek, US Business Report, Fortune, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Golf Digest New Yorker, Sports Illustrated and others are suffering mal de media – print media sickness. Their loss of ad dollars and pages has been damn near catastrophic.

In pandemic patterns, the Internet has afflicted and infected auto, male and other print mediums including many other titles and of course, newspapers with a virulent disease: loss of circulation, interest and advertising revenue!

Internet publications (there has to be a better term for them) can and do generate millions and millions of “hits” a month. Auto magazines cannot rack up numbers like these. They have an enthusiast base, not wide consumer appeal for potential new car buyers. Even the addition of websites for the buff books cannot come close to matching the huge volume of visitors to Edmunds.com and KBB for their car buying information.

The new metrics world gives manufacturers’ accurate detail on the ROI of specific sites – they can track from hits to sales at dealers. It’s a numbers game and has changed the way automobiles are marketed.

There is no known cure, silver bullet, penicillin or antibiotic for the automobile focused publications, once the Touchstone of every automotive ad campaign.  One top editor – publisher told me this week, “We’ve changed they way we write and report for our website and the magazine readers. They are not the same!” (more…)