MARCH MADNESS: Fashion magazine publishers have been desperate for some good news, following a particularly difficult end to last year. A small sigh of relief can be found in the March issues, which are posting solid ad-page gains almost across the board.

Vogue is ahead of the pack again, reporting 442 ad pages in the March issue, up 16 pages, or 3.7 percent, versus March 2011. This follows a substantial increase in paging for the March 2011 issue, up 50 pages, or 13 percent, over the March 2010 issue.

This story first appeared in the January 27, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Publisher Susan Plagemann said the January and February issues also posted small increases in paging, and April is looking “solid….We’ve had growth in all fashion, and retail is very strong,” said Plagemann. “We didn’t have any dips, and captured the majority of pages in the market.”

InStyle is reporting 347 pages for the March issue, up 39 pages and 13 percent over last year. Publisher Connie Anne Phillips called it a “record breaker,” noting it was InStyle’s largest March issue in its 18-year history, and builds upon a solid increase in March of last year, which reported a 20 percent increase in ad pages, to 308.

Elle will have 319 ad pages for March, up 2 percent from last year. “We’re up, we’re pleased, but it’s never good enough for me,” said publisher Kevin O’Malley. “The key drivers are luxury and prestige. As I’m looking deeper into this year, I see growth in American fashion and more on the European side. And I see growth in automotive — Buick, Infiniti and Acura.”

Harper’s Bazaar wasn’t far behind, closing its March issue up 15.5 percent, with 271 ad pages. “We are embarking on a brand transformation,” said publisher Carol Smith.” The title is also introducing a redesign with its March issue. “We are rethinking this product from magazine to mobile to shopping. The new look very much calls on our past as we look toward the future.”

W experienced its highest quarterly growth rate in the magazine’s history, up 17 percent for the first quarter. The March issue had 204 ad pages, up 25 percent. “We’ll be up again in April, in May,” said publisher Nina Lawrence. “Eighteen months ago, it was just a beautiful magazine. Now, it’s a fully developed brand. Our social media platforms and Web site uniques are now, alone, bigger than our print rate base. As they should be.”

Marie Claire and Glamour tied in the ad-page race, each posting 181 pages for their March issues. For Marie Claire, this will be the largest March issue in its history, up 31 percent versus last year, driven by a 25 percent rise in fashion pages and a 30 percent increase in the beauty category. New advertisers include Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, AG Adriano Goldschmied Jeans, MAC Cosmetics, Smashbox and Botox. Glamour reported a 9 percent increase, making March its second-largest book in 20 years.

There were two fashion titles that didn’t fare so well: People StyleWatch and Lucky magazine. StyleWatch fell 7 percent in paging, to 135 pages. Lucky posted a 21 percent decline in paging for March, to 106 pages. It’s unclear why the title posted such a dramatic decrease, although this issue was competing with editor in chief Brandon Holley’s first issue in March 2011. As with most magazines, beauty pages were up but retail was down, with Target not advertising during the first quarter and the Sears-Kmart business also down.

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