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Magazine Ad Sales Track the Trends

January 20, 1995|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The new year began on a sweet note for the magazine industry.

Figures released last week by the Publishers Information Bureau showed total advertising revenue for 1994 was up 10.9% over 1993, to $8.5 billion.

The increases during December alone in ad pages (10.5%) and ad revenue (18%) over numbers achieved in December, 1993, were the highest jumps in 10 years.

A look at individual performers offers an idea of what's hot--and what's not--at least as far as the media buyers on Madison Avenue are concerned.

Allure, the 4-year-old Conde Nast women's magazine that focuses on beauty and the beauty industry, continued to show a dramatic increase in ad revenue. It was up 48.5% last year, to $33.5 million, after being up 85% in 1993.

Details--Conde Nast's young men's mag covering music, fashion and lifestyle issues--had another great year. Ad revenue grew 46.7%, to $22.2 million, after showing an 85% increase in 1993.

It was also a nice year for Men's Health. Publishing 10 issues in 1994, compared to nine in 1993, the magazine showed a 119.1% increase, to $20.5 million. Men's Journal, which put out 10 issues last year (three more than in 1993), was up 100.9%, to $12 million.

Ad revenue at Martha Stewart Living (which recently inspired a look-alike parody called "Is Martha Stewart Living?") soared 87%, to $16.4 million.

In the money field, Worth came on strong, increasing ad revenue 70.2% to $13.7 million, while SmartMoney, publishing 12 issues (five more than in 1993), was up 198.6% to $21.1 million.

Other big gainers included American Health, up 34.5%; American Heritage, 40.3%; Entertainment Weekly, 43.4%, and YM, 32.4%.

Among the more high-profile publications, the New Yorker was up 9.7%, and GQ, 4.8%. Vanity Fair dropped 6.7%, and Esquire was down 10.4%.

The news weeklies' score card looked like this: Time, up 8.1% to $372 million; Newsweek, up 7% to nearly $279 million, and U.S. News & World Report, up 9.4%, to $221.1 million.

*

Scoring Big: Long before CD players, cable TV, the Internet and other adult diversions, there was Scrabble. First developed during the 1930s and turned into a national craze two decades later, the classic board game continues to sell an estimated 1 million units a year and draws hundreds of word-savvy players to biennial national tournaments.

Except for Merriam Webster's "Official Scrabble Players Dictionary," the reference book of record, surprisingly little has been published to serve the game's enthusiasts.

Enter "Everything Scrabble," newly released by Pocket Books. Two Suffolk County, N.Y., residents--John D. Williams Jr., a screenwriter and marketing executive who heads the National Scrabble Assn., and Joe Edley, the only two-time winner of the National Scrabble Championship--have written a catch-all book on the game. First printing: 40,000 copies.

The oversize paperback mainly advises beginners and pros on how to make the most of those 100 letter tiles (complete with diagrams), but it also offers the authors' personalized accounts of Scrabble's quirky history and culture, including a profile of its inventor, Alfred Mosher Butts. "I'm really a terrible speller," Butts confessed a few years before his death in 1993.

Williams, a ranked competitor himself, said the National Scrabble Assn., which represents about 10,000 players, receives up to 50 calls a day from around the country. They are answered at Williams & Co., his advertising and public-relations firm in Greenport, N.Y., which counts Scrabble manufacturer Milton Bradley Co. among its clients.

Serious players phone to seek arbitration in mid-contest, and barroom debaters want to know the most points that can be scored in a game (an unanswerable question).

Oh yes, qat is acceptable according to Williams. It's a variation of khat, the African shrub. Qi , however, is acceptable so far only outside North America. Pronounced "chee," qi is the Chinese word for an individual's life force.

* Paul Colford is on leave. Ink will return Feb. 24.

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