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Even in a Field of 65,000, It's Possible to Find a New Niche

June 09, 1988|JOHN GABREE

By one conservative estimate, 65,000 periodicals are published in North America. From abattoirs to zymurgy, there is scarcely a topic not already covered by some journal. Yet, month after month, new magazines arrive, generated by enthusiasts or entrepreneurs to meet some perceived need or opportunity.

Presentation Products magazine, whose premiere issue has just arrived, seems to have located an empty niche, positioning itself in the $17-billion annual market for products used by businesses, schools and government agencies in making presentations.

Advances in electronic and computer technology have made audio-visual programs more audible, colorful and original than the grainy, garbled films of the past. And new products seem about to revolutionize the industry. According to Ames Cornish, a marketing manager at Apple Computer, "Desk-top presentation could be an even greater opportunity for us than desk-top publishing," which has dominated consumer attention for the past couple of years.

Presentation Products owner Bill Slapin, who has founded five other successful periodicals on consumer electronics and computer products during a 20-year publishing career, said the 56,000-copy controlled-circulation magazine has met with immediate acceptance from advertisers. By focusing "on the total range of products and services" used by presenters, he noted, the magazine's first issue has attracted product advertising from Sony, Panasonic, AT&T and Kodak.

In addition to new products, each issue examines "a specific industry segment," looks at "trends and updates in a particular category" and offers "applications-oriented features that show our readers how presentation products are actually used."

The 8 1/2-by-11-inch, 72-page journal is printed on slick stock with a liberal use of color, especially by advertisers. Although it carries a $3 cover price, it is mainly available "to executives in business, government and education who decide what presentation products their institutions use," said editor Larry Tuck. The premiere issue, May-June, looks at recent developments in big-screen video display devices, in-house photographic slide-making and portable sound equipment, and also has quick takes on new services and equipment from erasable compact disks to laser pointers.

Tuck says initial circulation was based on trade association mailing lists, with more than 20% of the recipients qualified before the first issue was mailed. "We have been getting back about 3,000 of the enclosed subscription cards a day," he reported, "and expect to be close to 100% qualified by the end of the year." The magazine will publish every two months beginning in September and assume a monthly schedule in January, 1989.

Slapin's track record is solid. In 1975, for example, the Los Angeles native started the successful Electronic Retailing, which was aimed at audio professionals. Computer Merchandising magazine, which he founded in 1983, was by 1985 listed at No. 9 on Folio magazine's rating of the top 400 trade journals.

The same year, he sold his Eastman Publishing, which included an electronic data base service and Software Merchandising magazine as well as Computer Merchandising, to International Thomson, the British-Canadian information services conglomerate. Last month, Thomson folded Computer Merchandising.

"You don't feel good about it," Slapin said. "But it's like when you sell a house you love. You can't do anything about what the new owners do to it."

Although Presentation Products is published by the ambitious-sounding Pacific Magazine Group Inc., Tuck said there are no immediate plans for new publications. Those interested in receiving the magazine can get a subscription card by calling (213) 455-1414 or writing the company at 513 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401.

Beats there a heart so calcified that it does not leap at the knowledge that there is a Society of American Inventors? Far as we have come from the childhood treks in cardboard-box spaceships, don't we all still occasionally imagine creating something eternally and universally useful (and, we wince in our maturity, perhaps even profitable)?

And so we are happy to know that today's Edisons and Bells have an organization. Inevitably and to our good fortune, that organization has spawned a magazine, Inventor USA, to celebrate the latest harvest of Yankeee ingenuity or, as the society puts it, to "deal with a variety of inventor-related topics."

The nonprofit society was founded last year "to promote, assist, advocate and encourage American invention." As Donald Quigg of the U.S. Patent Office said at the time, in the face of figures showing that 44% of American patents were being granted to foreigners, there is a concern that "the inventive spirit of America is waning."

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