September issues are absolutely the thing for fashion magazines—a few short years ago, they were all competing to see whose issue could outweigh a watermelon. The last couple of years? Not so great. This year? Well...better, at least.
A year ago at this time, the recession was still in full swing, and there's not a more frivolous-seeming investment than a dozen glossy pages in Vogue's September issue. For that reason, Vogue's ad pages were down more than a third last September, and other fashion mags saw declines in the 20% range. This year? Vogue is up 23%, to 529 ad pages. Other fashion magazines are also seeing increases—Glamour is up 57%(!), Harper's Bazaar is up 12%, and InStyle is up 16%.
Of course, that's not a full-fledged comeback. That's an increase over last year's numbers, which were horrible. Vogue, for example, is still well below its rah-rah 2007 peak of 727 ad pages. A better litmus test of magazines' health may come next September, when they'll have less apocalyptic numbers to compare themselves to.
Then again, a forecast last month predicted that magazines' print ad revenue won't start rising past pre-recession levels until 2013. Assuming everyone can hang on that long.