Generic magazines on racks, ACP, Consol

Newspapers and magazines have bore the brunt of a downturn in Australia's advertising market. Photo: Louie Douvis

Australia's advertising market has had a weak start to 2014, with newspapers and magazines bearing the brunt with double-digit falls, according to a report measuring ad spend from media agencies.

But Kurt Burnette, chief revenue officer at Channel Seven and Pacific Magazines owner Seven West Media, has pointed to ''pockets of goodness'' in television and digital, and continued strength in ads from the banking, automotive, travel and finance sectors.

The Standard Media Index for February shows $521.3 million of ads were booked by media buyers for television, newspapers, digital, radio, magazines, outdoor, cinema and other - down an annual 1.5 per cent, or $7.9 million. However, SMI expects ad spending to be flat in February, once digital dollars - largely for display ads and search - are confirmed and revised up.

Advertising data is considered a leading indicator of the broader economy. In the calendar year to date, SMI said the decline was 0.5 per cent to $984.3 million.

The picture is brighter across the financial year to date, with the ad market found to have risen by 4 per cent to $4.99 billion. All media are up in the eight months to February, except newspapers and magazines, which are down 16.4 per cent and 17.5 per cent year on year.

The SMI figures come as media companies lobby the federal government to loosen media ownership laws, as they seek to shore up their longer-term revenue. This could lead to a flurry of deals in the politically sensitive sector.

The SMI figures show television, the biggest advertising medium, had another a good month due to the Winter Olympics and Big Bash. Its ad dollars rose 4 per cent year-on-year, or $9.9 million, to $257 million. Metropolitan TV led the way, up an annual 5.1 per cent to $186.8 million.

Among TV networks, ratings leader Seven Network had an improved 40.4 per cent ad revenue share in February, followed by Nine, with a slightly lower 35.4 per cent. Ten posted an improved 24.4 per cent share.

The picture was not as bright for newspapers, which lost 22.4 per cent to $56 million in February. Magazines were down 15.2 per cent to $19.5 million. Radio was down 3.5 per cent to $39.7 million, albeit compared with a February 2013 figure that was a record high.

SMI's interim figures for digital spending show a 3.7 per cent year-on-year rise in February to $94.1 million.