Magazine digital ad spend in 2021 shows strong post-Covid recovery

Magazine websites lead the way as UK ad-spend for 2021 set to beat pre-pandemic level

UK magazine circulation 2021

Online advertising at magazine brands in the UK saw a 156% recovery in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, when the first Covid-19 lockdown was imposed.

In addition, when comparing January to June 2020 to the same period this year, magazine brands’ digital ad spend grew by 78% – the biggest half-year recovery of any major media sector, even including search and all online display including platforms like Facebook.

Total ad spend at magazine brands, including both print and online, grew by 92% in Q2 and 28% in H1. In total, the sector is forecast to see 22% year-on-year growth overall in 2021 and 42% online.

However, its growth is expected to slow next year to fall by 1% overall compared to 2021 and increase by 3% online-only.

The latest indications of the advertising sector’s post-Covid recovery come in the Advertising Association and marketing agency WARC’s joint quarterly expenditure report.

It forecasts total UK ad spend will grow by 25% this year to reach a total of £29.3bn – surpassing July’s projection of 18% growth for the year and  the biggest annual rise on record. This total will comfortably beat the £25.4bn total for 2019 recorded by AA/WARC.

The analysis shows the UK is still on course to achieve the fastest ad trade recovery of any major European market this year, as predicted at the start of 2021.

Despite the fact growth was expected this year due to recovery from the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, a further 8% year-on-year increase is projected for the sector in 2022.

In Q2, the latest actual figures available, advertising spend rose 87% to reach £7.7bn. In the same period last year, which coincided with the first Covid-19 lockdown, UK ad spend fell by 34%.

After digital magazine ad spend, online radio station websites saw the most growth in H1, up 58%. Overall search and online display came next.

Regional newsbrands in print and online grew by just 1% in the first half of the year, while national titles saw growth of 6%. Online-only, the sectors grew by 28% and 22% respectively.

In the second quarter alone, regional newsbrands grew by 54% overall and 86% online. Local news was the worst-hit sector for advertising spend in 2020.

Growth at national newsbrands was slightly lower in Q2, with increases of 46% overall and 36% online.

However the newsbrand sectors have both had their overall 2021 growth projections brought down since July, despite the industry in general expecting higher numbers.

National newsbrands are now expected to grow by 8% in 2021, a five percentage point decrease compared to July. Similarly, online projections have been brought down by five percentage points to 13% growth.

Regional newsbrands are now expected to grow by 7% in 2021, a four percentage point drop, and online by 25%, a two percentage point drop.

By contrast magazines are doing better than expected with estimates revised upwards by three percentage points to 22% growth overall, and by 14 percentage points to 42% growth online.

In 2022 regional newsbrands are expected to see ad spend fall by 3% overall but grow by 4% online. National newsbrands expect 1% growth, rising to 5% online-only.

Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said the figures showed the UK’s advertising recovery going “from strength-to-strength following the sharp shock of the pandemic”.

WARC’s head of data content, James McDonald, added: “The latest data demonstrate bullish trade in the UK’s advertising sector despite potential inflationary headwinds and supply chain disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

"Strong fourth-quarter projections for TV – a medium heavily leveraged by retailers during the golden quarter – and search, which encompasses activity on eCommerce platforms, suggest it will be largely business as usual for the industry this year.”



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1 thought on “Magazine websites lead the way as UK ad-spend for 2021 set to beat pre-pandemic level”

  1. Regional lifestyle magazines are thriving and will atttact business advertisers due to them being wholly focused on whatever target market they’re aimed at

    Their make up of first rate columnists, use of top quality professional photography and well written engaging content are basics the regional dailies have abandoned in their fruitless search to monetise digital
    Reader lifted content ,public Facebook posts and press releases will drive any potential buyer – copy sale or advertising – even further away
    It’s not difficult to see why magazines are successful and papers are dying yet is something publishing heads choose to ignore

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