Playing with numbers’s William Spain reports on the most recent PIB numbers, proving once more that reporters should never be asked to interpret statistics.


Publishers Information Bureau’s regular monthly and year-to-date magazine ad page and spending estimates have made painful reading for more than a year. But their latest figures, released this week, could make a grown man cry.

For the record, PIB numbers are lagging indicators, a look back. The grown men and women running these magazines are already selling advertising in the summer and fall books. In other words, the crying over March PIB numbers took place months ago. Fortunately, the magazine publishers who have weathered the hell called 2001 have already dried their tears, are back in the trenches and have grown to understand the real meaning of the cliche “catious optimism.”

Another complaint with Mr. Spain’s article is this lead:

Of all the media categories getting kicked around during this lengthening advertising recession, few have taken as much of a beating as the incredible shrinking periodical.

According to whom? Please, Mr. Spain, give us your side-by-side comparison of how periodicals (of which there are many categories) have performed vs. outdoor, newspaper, network TV, cable, web (specifically, direct marketing, etc.

It has been my impression from following advertising, media and marketing trade coverage, that the magazine world has been hit across the board with a pounding similar to the rest of the advertising-supported media world. Certainly, there are categories like technology-related magazines which have been wiped out. But was that unique to periodicals?