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Consumer Magazine Report: Magazines in Prime Time

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Some magazines can claim a bigger viewership than ER
ith the broadcast networks continuing to lose viewers in droves and the cost of TV ads soaring, some mega-circulation magazines--including Time Inc.'s People and Sports Illustrated --are more aggressively pitching themselves as best-equipped to deliver a mass audience at competitive rates.
"Traditional TV advertisers have had to think harder about making the investment in that medium," says People publisher Peter Bauer. "TV costs have been driven up so high. Beyond that, the things print brings to the party--the relationships between readers and the magazines--is something advertisers are recognizing more and more. [People] is the 'prime time' in print, and I think advertisers are receptive to that."
People has a circulation of more than 3.5 million and a claimed readership of 35 million, giving it a weekly audience that bests that of most prime-time programming.
Of course, magazines selling against TV is nothing new. Furthermore, advertising across all media segments, including network TV, has soared. But while broadcast TV continues to dominate other categories--raking in $12.6 billion during the first nine months of 1999, a 9 percent gain over the same period the previous year, according to Competitive Media Reporting--magazine ad spending grew at a healthier clip during the same period, up 11.3 percent to $10.7 billion.
"I think now [advertisers] are at least starting to recognize that they should stop, take a look, and analyze the cost-value relationships of all media," says Sports Illustrated publisher Fabio Freyre.
In a recent trade campaign, SI--which has a weekly circulation of 3.25 million and reported readership of more than 23.78 million--compared its audience to that of major televised sporting events such as Game 4 of last year's World Series (23.73 million) and ABC's Monday Night Football (whose audience in December averaged 18.4 million).
"We're a 24 rating, and Monday Night Football is an 8, but a page in Sports Illustrated is a fraction of what a 30-second spot on Monday Night Football would cost you," Freyre says.
(It should be noted that while the networks are losing audience, so are some magazines--including People and SI. People's total paid circ dipped 2.5 percent during the six months ended Dec. 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. SI's overall reach declined by 0.4 percent during the same period.)
People's Bauer says the high cost of TV has been a factor in several major clients' increasing their business in his magazine. Procter & Gamble, Philip Morris, and General Motors are among those spending dramatically more on People in recent years, helping the magazine's ad pages last year grow 6.7 percent versus 1998.
Not all magazines are selling against TV, though. Gemstar International Group's TV Guide--which counts the TV networks among its biggest advertisers--said it does not pitch against the nets.
"There are several magazines out there that can reach more people than ER, and do it more efficiently," says Vikki Schwartzman, svp/managing director of strategic print services for Universal McCann. "But no matter what the medium, it's about relevancy." --Tony Cas