Ever since the mediapocalypse that occurred simultaneously with the overall economy-pocalypse, the magazine industry has been, shall we say, not at its best. The financially weaker magazines died off at an alarming rate; the survivors, shaky or not, assumed that they were the strong ones, destined to emerge from the hard times with renewed vigor, ready to soar to ever greater heights as the wounded economy began its healing process.

Not so!

The fourth quarter ad page stats for magazines are out, and it's official: 2011 will not go down as the year of the magazine rebound, any more than it will go down as the year of the macroeconomic rebound. When people are terrified of general economic collapse, they tend to buy fewer magazine ad pages. Write that one in your book of wisdom, Aristotle! The WSJ reports:

The number of ad pages in monthly publications declined 6.8% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, according to data released Friday by the Media Industry Newsletter. Many publications suffered sharp declines in November and December from a year earlier, muting-and in some cases nullifying-gains made earlier in the year.

So the MIN stats for the industry in the past three years go: 2009, -20%; 2010, +4%; 2011, -3%. A crash, a peek of hope, and then a retreat as the reality of the situation set in. Just like everything else in the economy!

What sets magazines apart, of course, is that unlike some industries, they are also in a secular decline, because print is dying as a medium. The Atlantic, one of the oldest and most venerable magazines in America, is now making more digital ad revenue than print ad revenue. That's a, whattaya call it... sign.