Parade, USA Weekend : A numbers game

By: Joe Strupp In the ongoing battle between the nation's top two national Sunday magazines, Gannett-owned USA Weekend is boasting a dramatic increase in the number of newspapers it serves, while Conde Nast's Parade continues to dominate in overall readership, according to recent statistics.
At a time when locally produced Sunday magazines are folding and cutting back due to lost ad revenue, the two nationwide weekenders are raising ad rates and expanding coverage.
"We are producing a magazine that is becoming more of a choice for newspaper readers," says Marcia Bullard, USA Weekend's president, CEO, and editor since 1997. "Readers like that they can get a mix of everything."
USA Weekend rose from 401 newspapers in 1994 to 541 today, according to spokesperson Meredith Stone. She adds that 95 of those new subscribers are former Parade newspapers.
Although the number of newspapers subscribing to Parade has actually declined since 1994, from 348 to 331, Parade officials say they continue to prosper as larger newspapers replace those that discontinue the magazine.
Parade publisher and chairman Carlo Vittorini says the publication is currently in 93 of the nation's top 100 newspapers. "By being in the hub city, we eliminate the need to be in the smaller papers," says Vittorini. Parade leads overall circulation, with 37.2 million readers, compared with USA Weekend's 21.2 million. USA Weekend has shown a greater circulation growth in the past five years, adding more than 3 million readers since 1994, while Parade has seen only 129,000 more.
In the always-important ad revenue category, each magazine shows significant success in recent years. Parade, which charged $547,700 for a full-page ad in 1994 now takes in $703,100, according to magazine officials. In addition, Parade's annual ad revenue has grown from $447 million five years ago to $516 million last year, although the number of ad pages has dropped, from 716 in 1994 to 636 at the end of 1998.
USA Weekend saw its full-page ad rate jump from $275,900 in 1994 to $426,120 last year, while dropping from 730 ad pages in 1994 to 609 in 1998. Company officials declined to release specific ad revenue figures.
Fred Johnson, Parade's senior vice president and director of newspaper relations, points out that USA Weekend's newspaper increase is tied to its willingness to be placed in non-Sunday editions. He says Parade has been asked to do that but would rather keep its Sunday uniformity.
"I turn down half a dozen newspapers a month that want us but not on Sunday," Johnson says. "We also [avoid] some where we have adequate market coverage already in other, larger papers."
Bullard, who reports that only 16% of USA Weekend papers carry it on days other than Sunday, says allowing the newspapers to place the magazine where they need it is good for business. "If they need to build circulation on Friday or Saturday, we will do that," she adds.
The latest circulation battle follows more than 40 years of competition between the two publications. Parade, which started as a nickel-a-copy newsstand magazine in 1941, eventually started its newspaper run in the Nashville Tennessean and currently is distributed by Parade Publications, a Conde Nast division.
USA Weekend began in 1953 as "Family Weekly," and took its current name in 1985 when Gannett purchased it from CBS.
Since the Gannett purchase, USA Weekend has seen its greatest success, officials contend, citing their efforts to aggressively target new markets and add more newspapers.
"It is a fairly serious business," says Bullard. "We'd like to be in more markets that Parade is in. I think Parade is a good competitor."
Vittorini, however, takes a less-combative approach to the rivalry. He says Parade is not concerned with daily circulation numbers but wants only to continue increasing overall readership and ad revenue, while maintaining a good product.
"There is plenty of room for two of us in the industry because of market-to-market competitiveness," Vittorini says. "They're much more interested in getting our newspapers than we are in getting theirs."
Among the most recent Parade newspapers that switched to USA Weekend are the Santa Barbara (Calif.) News Press and the San Francisco Chronicle/ Examiner, which plans to complete its change in May, according to Bullard.
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