Figuring out journal ads' slip 'n' slide

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PERQ/HCI data suggest that the slowdown in journal ad sales is hitting both medical-surgical journals and specialty titles as the professional ad spend fell again in 2007. What's behind the slide in spending? How can journals hold their ground?


Jennifer Day

SVP/group publisher, 

Dowden Health Media 

Behind the slide: A peek at the most recent (02/08) PERQ/HCI report on advertising reveals that pages in the Med/Surg arena are down 17.4% over last year. Primary care is worse; the combined average of FP-IM pages is down roughly 25%. Behind the curtain, several issues at work; most obvious are 1) the weakened US economic state and 2) the impact of slowing drug approvals and a corresponding deceleration in drug spending growth. A green light on approvals can stimulate more advertising. Cycles rule: Our industry has tended to be cyclical, however; the shifting nature of the traditional print advertising model and the digital revolution have made our business less predictable than before. No doubt, we have reached an informational inflection point. This trend is causing us to examine how we deliver information, to ensure we have it right on content conversion from print to online. Our titles are our brands, and each delivers its own product: namely, monthly content in print to readers and daily content on the Web to visitors.  Clearly, marketers can tie into the strength of the personal connection physicians have with our brands when they use them as a tool to disseminate promotional or educational materials to doctors. How can journals hold their ground? The risk that comes with dependence on advertising needs to be offset by building a mix of “hedge” offerings. In terms of revenue apportionment, the pie that was once sliced most generously for print advertising is now shifting more towards programs, events, and online activities.  At the same time, our attention to advertising is focused on creative advertising products (non-traditional inserts and cover treatments) along with integrated programs that align print and Web offerings more robustly, allowing for enriched ROI and continuity. There is a solution, no doubt, to losing ground. It's all a matter of being strategic, and robust, in the array of products that we offer.

Tino DeCarlo

Director of advertising sales, 


The dearth of new product launches, a sluggish economy and the dynamic migration to electronic media keeps chipping away at traditional medical journal advertising. Although the surge toward DTC advertising has somewhat subsided, this questionable ad investing continues to take its toll as well.  Yet, dollar for dollar all the research confirms that medical journal advertising is still your most effective and economical ad buy. Succeeding in today's environment requires an uncanny ability to identify and respond to each customer's specific marketing needs. Armed with this vital information, our sales folks develop customized packages, bundle pertinent journals leveraging both print and online components, use high impact ad units and tailored subscription programs. These special projects are designed to intensify reach and deliver targeted ad exposure with no waste. It's an area that continues to provide increasing ROI for our customers, along with growth and promise for our company. Elsevier also publishes well-read, quality journals and magazines, both society owned and proprietary, in most of the key specialty areas. Fortunately, the declines in some markets are tempered and offset by gains in the others.

David March

EVP, Erdos & Morgan; 

president, Association of Medical Media

While the slide in journal ad spending can be attributed to many factors, I believe it is primarily caused by three key factors. The first is a lack of FDA approvals. If the number of approvals picks up in 2009 after the election, then the entire publishing community will benefit. The second and third reasons are linked together. There are now more options for marketers and there seems to be a lack of confidence in journal ads vs. other promotional opportunities. Journals should no longer be viewed as just a place for marketers to place advertising, instead, they must be viewed as a franchise. That franchise should include websites, live events and other project offerings, both electronic and print.  Successful publishing companies have figured out a way to monetize the entire franchise. They look beyond ad pages as the sole revenue stream. As marketers shift spending from ad pages to other types of promotion, the role of journals doesn't necessarily have to diminish. However, publishers are facing hard choices as to where to invest limited resources in reshaping their franchises. Journal adverting should always play a fundamental part of the marketing mix. Research has shown time and time again the strong ROI and synergistic effect journal advertising has when used in combination with other marketing methods. 

Rick Stefany


Drug Topics 

Yes, traditional journals are seeing a market disruption as brand manager's focus on a variety of issues: vacant territories, secondary deciles and pharmacy education. We are seeing more integration of marketing through combined personal and non personal marketing platforms. Our e-media investment has earned us additional marketing partnership as formulary updates, vacant detail rep territories, and pharmacy communication dovetail into a ‘platform solution'. None of our customers really has the time for single tactic programs that don't integrate across their total brand horizon. The recent rollout of weekly digital editions for Drug Topics, an enhanced Hospital edition, and with coding and formulary tools has created a new solutions kit that fits this need. Will journals go away?--not the major masthead brands--in Drug Topics' case we have 150 years of loyalty and leadership and continue to leverage that to what the healthcare professional wants. Over the counter and generics continue to be points of strength but the bottom line is the platform!

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