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Trending up: Three top magazines increase their rate bases

Magazines increasing rate bases

Magazines increasing rate bases

The culling of the magazine industry was halted last week when Life & Style Weekly, Food Network Magazine and Parenting School Years all announced base rate circulation hikes, effective within the next six months. These rays of optimism provide a welcome break from the publishing industry’s usual doom and gloom, but how are publishers succeeding during the downturn?

Parenting School Years, created earlier this year when Bonnier split Parenting magazine into two categories based on age group, announced that its circulation will climb from 500,000 to 550,000 in February 2010. Parenting vice president and group publisher Greg Schumann has been working to legitimize the Parenting School Years name, trying to eliminate the magazine’s free distribution in schools and doctor’s offices and beginning to sell the magazine on newsstands in Barnes & Noble.

He notes, “There’s a certain degree of risk to change,” and advertisers may be taking the wait and see approach to his publication. Parenting School Years’ rate increase indicates that Schumann is at least not afraid of taking a risk in order to make the magazine a household name.

Bauer Publishing’s celebrity and fashion magazine, Life & Style Weekly, could not wait until 2010 to enact its base rate increase. Vice president and group publisher Mark Oltarsh stated that the magazine’s circulation increase is effective immediately. The magazine now promises advertisers it will sell 450,000 copies per issue, up 50,000 or 12.5 percent.

MediaBistro is quick to point out that all the celebrity weeklies were recently given an unexpected boon in the disconcerting form of the Jon and Kate saga and Michael Jackson’s sudden death. But the magazine’s advertising dollars speak for themselves, as Oltarsh notes, listing a host of big name advertisers who have recently signed on with the magazine.

Food Network Magazine, a partnership between Hearst and Food Network, also announced an increase in circulation, citing reader response as the motivating force behind the magazine’s base rate increase. The magazine launched this summer with a circulation of 400,000 and had planned to reach a circulation of 1 million by August 2010.

The title offers Food Network viewers a broadened media experience, and features columns and recipes penned by network stars whose television careers have already made them affable experts. The magazine’s marketing strategy has found astonishing success, beginning when the title posted a 70 percent sell-through for its first test issue last fall.

Continued demand has prompted the company to move the base rate increase to January 2010. “The multi-platform marketing strategy along with the strength of the Food Network brand continues to drive demand, shattering both our circulation and advertising benchmarks,” stated publisher Vicki Wellington in the announcement. The magazine’s frequency will also be bumped from six issues per year to 10.

The publication’s popularity is not surprising to industry insiders. “Titles that create specific communities around relative content using various platforms will be the ones to weather the current economic storm,” advises Audience Development associate editor Chandra Johnson-Greene.

Will other publications follow suit, increasing their base rates to emulate the signs of success broadcast by these three magazines? Johnson-Greene believes it’s possible. “Publishers are looking to either maintain or increase their ad pages and revenue by using numerous tactics,” Greene wrote in an e-mail. However, she cautions that some magazines would be ill-advised to raise their base rates just to soothe advertisers.

–Marissa Maybee

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