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'New Woman' Magazines Catch Advertisers' Eye Amid Industry Slump

June 02, 1986|PAUL RICHTER | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Magazine industry watchers saw more than a little significance in a recent announcement by Esquire Inc., chronicler of hairy-chested male accomplishment, that it will put out a bimonthly publication for women.

The publisher said it will bring out this summer New York Woman, a magazine for and about the city's "accomplished and aspiring women." The experts say its launch is another sign of success for a group of magazines that has recently prospered while much of the industry has languished in an advertising slowdown.

The group is sometimes called the "new woman" magazines, referring to their focus on the concerns of the younger and working women. The category usually includes the career-centered Working Woman, Working Mother, and Savvy; the health and fitness magazines Self and American Health; the largely political Ms., and Parents magazine.

Still Behind 'Service' Magazines

While these magazines still lag far behind the fashion and home-centered "service" magazines in profits and circulation, "their success with advertisers and ad agencies has been pretty spectacular," says John Mack Carter, an oft-quoted industry observer and editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping magazine.

Most of the publications have now been around for a decade, which, in a business with a 98% casualty rate, "is an impressive statistic by itself," says Carol Taber, publisher of Working Woman magazine.

Working Woman, which turned 10 years old last month, has grown to a circulation of 770,000 by giving women advice on such practical matters as office memo writing and such abstruse topics as the wielding of corporate power. Recent articles included, for example, "How to get good results from problem people," "Avoiding corporate culture shock" and "The ideal husband for a working woman."

The magazine's New York-based owner, Hal Publications, purchased it eight years ago in bankruptcy court reorganization. Last year, Working Woman's revenue topped $20 million, up from about $10 million in 1982.

Of the magazines in the category, only Conde Nast's Self, which maps the torturous path to leanness, has done better. Self's sales topped $26 million last year, more than doubling since 1983, while its circulation passed the 1-million mark.

The magazines have succeeded by persuading advertisers that they are a sensibly priced way to reach a group of women who tend to be younger and more affluent than most, and don't watch daytime television.

Prime-time television is too expensive, and, while general-interest magazines are more efficient on a cost-per-thousand readers basis, advertisers believe women pay closer attention to special-interest magazines.

"A lot of companies have been forgoing some more general-interest magazines to concentrate on smaller magazines, where a specialized subject brings you more reader involvement," says Leo Scullin, a senior vice president at the Young & Rubicam ad agency in New York.

The magazines' advertisers include, of course, food, cosmetics and apparel companies that provide the bread and butter for all women's magazines. But the new-woman publications--in particular the career-oriented ones--have also attracted advertisers that have primarily pitched their products at men. Among these are financial service firms, automobile manufacturers and office-equipment makers.

Advertisers of office and business products--including office equipment and financial services--accounted for 52% of Working Woman's ad revenue, for example. The No. 2 category is cosmetics, followed, by food, automotive products and apparel.

More Receptive

"Our goal in these ads is to try to reinforce, in an unintimidating way, messages we're also trying to send in other media," says Donald Holmes, marketing manager for the Sears Financial Network. The group, which includes the big retailer's Dean Witter brokerage, Allstate insurance, Coldwell Banker real estate and Sears Savings Bank, began an ad campaign with the magazines this year.

The company has been encouraged by research showing that women are more receptive to ads for financial services than men.

"Men are often just as uninformed, but they're not willing to admit it and seek out information," Holmes said.

Some analysts believe that these specialized magazines can only gain advertising and circulation in the future, while the "Seven Sisters"--the venerable Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping and others--lose it.

The circulation of the traditional women's magazines "has really peaked out, while the revenue growth hasn't kept up with the growth of the advertising spending overall," said David C. Lehmkuhl, a vice president at the N. W. Ayer & Co. ad agency in New York. "These new specialty magazines cater more to the needs of the younger women, and they're bound to grow."

Certainly, the new-woman magazines have already influenced the older publications, which carry more articles and columns on careers and fitness.

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