American Pie 11.05.01

It’s almost a meltdown. Latest figures show a dramatic drop in advertising in US magazines. Of the top 100, 65 report a drop-off in ad pages in the first quarter of 2001. The biggest tumble has been suffered by such business magazines as Business Week (down 30 per cent), Barrons (almost 24 per cent), Fortune (off 21 per cent), Forbes (12 per cent) and Smart Business (down almost 48 per cent). The weekly news magazines have also been hit hard. Time’s ad pages are down 21 per cent, so are the pages in US News and World Report while Newsweek is down 17 per cent. The only big magazines that appear to be weathering the ad drought are In Style, New York Magazine and Architectural Digest (each up 12 per cent) and Martha Stewart Living (up 15 per cent). The National Enquirer, which recently launched a campaign for up-market ads, reports its ad pages are up 20 per cent.

It’s not only magazines that are hurting. So are newspapers here. In their case its circulation. Among the major US newspapers, most report that sales have been flat or even declined slightly. USA Today remains the top-selling daily with a circulation of 1,850,000 – up 15,000 over the past six months. The Wall Street Journal is still no.2 with a circulation of 1,820,000, up 6,900 copies, with, in third place, The New York Times reporting daily sales of 1,160,000 and a Sunday circulation of 1,700,000, in both cases a tiny jump of just under 1 per cent. But virtually all the other big papers reported declines in circulation. The Los Angeles Times led the pack with a drop of almost 5 per cent. The declines, plus the rising cost of newsprint, have resulted in many lay-offs at several papers. Things may look better next year. A new rule (Press Gazette, 23 March) will allow newspapers to count as sales papers that sell for as much as 75 per cent off their official price, compared to 50 per cent in the past.

Chalk up another journalistic coup to the National Enquirer (Press Gazette, March 9). Just one day after learning that the Enquirer was about to break a story that for seven years he had an extra-marital affair, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Maria Shriver, officially pulled out of the political race to be Governor of California. Although a representative of the actor called the story a "fabrication", the Enquirer said they had spent five months investigating the story – and there were "no shades of grey".

Who are the world’s worst enemies of the press? According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the leaders of Iran, China and Liberia top of the list of the 10 worst. In addition to Ayatolla Ali Khamenei, President Jiang Zemin and president Charles Taylor, the list includes Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Columbia’s Carlos Castano, Ukranian president Leonid Kuchma, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Tunisia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Malayasian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. China makes the list for the fifth consecutive year. The CPJ calls Jiang Zemin the world’s top jailer of journalists. At the end of last year at least 22 journalists were in jail in China.

A long-awaited redesign of the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle hit the news-stands last week, to be met with mixed comments. One critic said: "It looks like a Tina Brown version of USA Today." Is that a compliment? Hardly. Not when it was also dubbed "too suburban".

By Jeffrey Blyth

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