LOST WEEKEND: THE PLIGHT OF SUNDAY MAGAZINES

By: by Tony Case

Parade, USA Weekend See Ad Pages Slip



by Tony Case



(Mediaweek) It’s a phenomenon that has even industry analysts
scratching their heads. Sunday magazines are in a slump, even
though many of the newspapers that carry them are reaping record
ad business and magazines overall are enjoying double-digit
advertising growth.



During the first half of this year, Sunday magazine volume fell by
1%, to 2,577 pages, compared to last year, according to Publishers
Information Bureau data. Meanwhile, total magazine pages for the
same period were up a strong 14.1%, to 141,206.



‘In this kind of environment, where there’s so much advertising
out there, particularly in the form of dot-com companies, it seems
logical that it would have ignited [the Sunday magazines] as well,’
says Allen Banks, executive media director of North America for
Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. Banks suggested the falloff might have
to do with advertisers looking for more targeted vehicles for their
messages rather than with the mass-oriented Sunday books themselves.



Both of the major nationally distributed inserts, Advance Publications’
Parade and Gannett’s USA Weekend, saw their ad pages slip. Parade
lost a slight 0.6%, with 313 pages of ads in the first six months of
this year, while USA Weekend suffered a bruising 12.1% loss, falling
to 292 pages.



The New York Times Magazine gained just 2.9%, to 1,722 pages – even
though the Times’ total ad revenue, for the magazine and all other
sections of the paper, soared 18.2% in the first half of this year
and total ad volume grew 6.1%. The Los Angeles Times Magazine saw
its ad pages tumble 11.4%, to 248.



Meanwhile, some Sunday inserts can command the kind of ad rates that
would seemingly assure survival. Parade, with a reach of 37.3 million
copies weekly, sells a four-color full page for $724,200, representing
a cost per thousand of $19.39. That rate far surpasses that of
newspapers. According to the MacManus Group, the CPM for a quarter-page
newspaper ad in the top 50 markets runs $23.79. But magazines overall
seem to be a better buy than their Sunday sisters. Media Dynamics
estimates the CPM of a full-page ad in a general-interest book at
$7.45 for men, $5.25 for women.



Joan Sheridan LaBarge, Parade’s senior vp/sales and marketing, admits
that direct-response advertising – long the bread and butter of the
Sunday books – has leveled off a bit for her magazine, declining by
4%, or 14 pages, during the first half of this year. But new categories,
such as technology, are soaring, she reports. This year, Austin,
Texas-based Internet company Netpliance became Parade’s single-largest
advertiser. Other new Parade clients include IBM, Dell and Gateway.
And traditional categories such as pharmaceutical and packaged goods
are holding their own, she added.



At the same time, the herd of Sunday magazines is thinning. There are
currently 15 inserts, down from around 60 two decades ago. The Miami
Herald, Dallas Morning News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution are among
the large-circ metros that folded their magazines in recent years. Dan
Binder, vp/director of print investment at Starcom in Chicago, says
price works against Sunday titles. ‘The out-of-pocket cost is just
huge for high-circulation publications,’ he says.



Representatives of USA Weekend and The New York Times did not return
calls by press time. In a cryptic comment, a spokesman for the L.A.
Times – whose parent, Times Mirror, was gobbled up earlier this year
by Chicago Tribune publisher Tribune Co. – said it would be ‘difficult’
to address concerns facing the magazine during ‘this transitional time.’





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Tony Case is a senior editor at Mediaweek magazine.











(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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