By: LAURA REINA
SUBURBAN NEW Jersey daily is distributing both Parade and USA Weekend Sunday magazines for the next six months, and will let readers decide which they want.
The Record, based in Hackensack, in the wealthy New York City suburbs of Bergen County, has carried Parade for years. It began the test of USA Weekend recently, adding the nationally distributed magazine to its Sunday edition, with a 212,855 circulation.
After six months getting both magazines, readers will be asked in surveys and call-ins which they prefer.
“We finally felt it was time to give our readers a chance to be involved with what’s in the paper,” said John Kimball, vice president of sales.
Kimball acknowledged readers have been satisfied with Parade for a long time. But since USA Weekend “has been trying to add us to their list for a long time,” he agreed to let them face off in a showdown.
The test just happens to end around the time the Record’s contract with Parade comes up for renewal. Dave Barber, vice president of newspaper relations at USA Weekend, said this is the first case in which the full run of a newspaper has tested USA Weekend for six months.
“Sometimes newspapers just want to make sure research jives before they switch,” Barber said.
But according to Carlo Vittorini, CEO and publisher of Parade, never before has a head-to-head test resulted in a newspaper replacing Parade with USA Weekend.
Though 46 of the 88 papers USA Weekend has added in the past year have come at the expense of Parade, none followed test marketing.
“To the best of our knowledge, they haven’t won any papers when they’ve done an editorial test,” Vittorini said, adding that he would be aware of such tests because of the agreements Parade has with newspapers.
Vittorini said USA Weekend picked up papers from such groups as Thomson, Donrey and Multimedia, which was acquired by USA Weekend parent Gannett Co. Vittorini expressed ambivalence about the Record’s test, but said, “It’s the paper’s choice and we don’t mind competition because we keep winning it.”
The terms of the test call for the Record to collect no revenue and to pay nothing to USA Weekend.
The parties also agreed, in the interest of fairness, that during the test period, the newspaper would refrain from promoting either magazine.
That’s why Vittorini was surprised to learn that a letter, written by Marcia Bullard, editor, president, and CEO of USA Weekend, was inserted along with the first installment of USA Weekend. The letter, explaining the trial and the magazine, was distributed the same day the paper ran a small editorial box on Page One explaining why readers were receiving both magazines.
Kimball defended the letter saying, “I felt it gave our readers a quick, thumbnail view of USA Weekend.” He said he agreed to distribute it to readers “if I looked at it first and approved it.”
Barber stressed that the letter ran simply as an introduction. “It’s definitely not a promotional piece,” he said, adding that there were no plans for further advertising or promotion in the newspaper during the test.
Barber conceded that USA Weekend is “up against big odds in Bergen,” and added that when it comes to reader preference studies, “we’ve won some, but so has Parade.”
And Vittorini said it’s “quite reasonable” for a newspaper to explore the choice USA Weekend presents. “It’s a common tactic, but most of our papers are not interested,” he said.
Parade is presently in 340 newspapers and has an overall circulation of 36,631,000. USA Weekend is in 489 newspapers and has an overall circulation of 20,019,525.
?(Competing to please readers, the two titans of Sunday magazines as they appeared in the Record recently. Above, a letter from USA Weekend introducing readers to the magazine and the test) [Caption]