Ad Age’s 2014 Magazine A-List: Who Said Print Was dead?

Ad Age’s 2014 Magazine A-List: Who Said Print Was dead?

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It's clear that the business of magazines is under pressure, but they continue to exert an outsized influence on culture, food, politics and more. Despite the business challenges, they're still sexy.

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Many of the world’s biggest brands want to see their ads in print, where advertising actually enhances the overall experience. That’s unlike TV or digital media, where in many cases consumers are doing everything they can to avoid advertisements.

In 2002, Ad Age introduced its Magazine A-List to honor this singular form of media. Since then the magazine world has changed dramatically as advertisers, still their primary source of revenue, began shifting budgets to digital media. Magazines are now moving quickly to adapt. And they’re poised to emerge from the economic shadow as more than just ink on paper products – sometimes much more. Magazines are brands, and the successful ones will figure out what that means in a post-print world.

This year’s list recognizes magazines for their traditional achievements in 2014 – print ad pages, subscriptions, newsstand sales – but puts a premium on how the titles are adapting to this new order.

Here is a selection of Ad Age’s 2014 Magazine A List:

#9. Sports Illustrated

Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp has lauded Sports Illustrated for finding new ways to offset print declines. Sure, Publisher Brendan Ripp is the boss’s son, but the elder Mr. Ripp makes a good point. In 2014, Sports Illustrated introduced digital-video franchises, invested in a streaming sports network and created a fantasy-sports app. It also scored a major LeBron James scoop and had its thickest Swimsuit Issue since the 80s.

#8. Harper’s Bazaar

Hearst’s fashion title turned in its most profitable year yet, with print ad pages up 5% through November. Its September issue was the largest issue in the magazine’s 147-year history. Digital was spry as well. Ad revenue across its website was up 75%, with help from native ads. On Pinterest, it has 4.7 million followers — four times Vogue, InStyle, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire and W combined.

#5. Marie Claire

While several magazines trimmed frequency and cut legacy budgets, Hearst’s Marie Claire introduced three seasonal editions of Branché, a “pop-up” magazine distributed in New York and L.A. The Hearst title also had some fun with its cover, including a five-page origami design in May sponsored by Maybelline and a working zipper on its August edition that revealed the denim issue sponsored by Guess. The magazine’s September issue was the largest in its 20-year history in the U.S.

#1. Vice

For most magazine companies, 2014 was a difficult year. Backs against the wall, publishers looked beyond print for growth — to digital media, live events, consumer products and TV deals. Vice magazine is way ahead of them.

Ones to watch

Expect big things in print and digital fromCosmopolitan, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first issue under Helen Gurley Brown. Bon Appetit will look to make its own splash in digital after absorbing Epicurious.com and creating the Food Innovation Group at Condé Nast. A new

editor and a new publisher at Popular Mechanics are remaking the title as a hipster-approved DIY guide. And look out for Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief at The New York Times Magazine, which is introducing a redesign in early 2015.

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