USA Weekend launches redesign pg. 27

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By: Lucia Moses USA Weekend magazine is seeking to court Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers with a redesigned cover and more emphasis on lifestyle topics such as health, personal finance, and technology.
The redesign, which launched with the April 23-25 issue, changed the headline and body type, moved the cover logo, added more visual aids, and brought a back news page to the front of the magazine.
The redesign was done by New York design firm WBMG, whose redesign credits include Fortune magazine in 1997 and Money and ESPN magazines in 1998.
New, regular columns now run in place of feature stories. Additions include a biweekly personal technology column, Tech Talk; a monthly food column, Cook Smart; and a weekly trends column, New Frontiers. The magazine also doubled the frequency of its Personal Finance column, which now runs every other week.
The magazine has spent about $1 million over the past year and a half on the redesign, estimates Marcia Bullard, USA Weekend's president, editor, and CEO.
Bullard says the redesign seeks to build on USA Weekend's appeal to readers ages 25 to 50, the "group newspapers have always had the most trouble drawing readers from." Market research suggested that the new column topics could help attract readers in that age range, Bullard says. By bringing more regularity to the columns, she also hopes to lure readers to the magazine on a regular basis.
The redesign comes as USA Weekend, despite stronger circulation gains in the past five years, trails Parade, the other top national Sunday magazine, in circulation. USA Weekend, published by Gannett Co., appears in 542 newspapers with a total circulation of 21.7 million, while Parade, a division of Advance Publications, appears in 331 papers with a total circulation of 37.2 million.
Both magazines cite studies showing they beat the other in reaching young to middle-aged readers.
In studies done for Parade by Belden Associates of 500 adult readers in major markets in 1991, 1996 and 1998, at least twice as many readers said they would prefer Parade over USA Weekend if only one was available.
When Belden did the same survey with readers ages 18 to 34, the margin narrowed, but Parade still had an advantage of 31% to 68%, depending on the year.
"We're reaching as many, if not more, of that audience," says Fred Johnson, director of newspaper relations for Parade. "They changed their entire design, so something wasn't working." Parade has made minor changes over the years, he says.
USA Weekend points to the spring 1999 Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) study showing USA Weekend's total readership gaining 6% since 1998 as Parade's dropped 5.3%. The study compares readership of USA Weekend with 15 competitors. MRI is a leading supplier of audience research to media and advertisers.
In other changes, USA Weekend also formed a partnership with Spin magazine to run an occasional feature from Spin called SPIN Picks. The Web site, usaweekend.com, also reflects the redesign, with more news and advertising opportunities on the home page. An ad campaign in trade magazines is showing off the magazine's remake.
The new (top) and the old.
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher May 1, 1999) [Caption]

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