COMPUTING MAGAZINES ADD TO FAMILY

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Returning to a market where it flopped a decade ago, Scholastic Inc. is dusting off the Family Computing title to re-enter the now booming home computer market.

Insiders familiar with the project say media buyers will see a prototype within two weeks; the first issue is scheduled to hit in late September.

Aimed at affluent parents of children under 13 years old, the 1 million circulation magazine is the latest entry in a segment that promises to be hotly contested this year.

Family Computing will battle head to head against Family PC, a joint venture between Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. and Walt Disney Co. Also targeted at parents with school-age children, Family PC bows in June and will be followed by a yet-to-be-named high tech consumer entry from Ziff-Davis under the direction of former Ziff-Davis President J. Scott Briggs, who's now head of Ziff-Davis Consumer Magazine Group.

Both Family Computing and Family PC will be playing catch-up with CMP Publications' Home PC, which as of last week claimed to have sold 90 ad pages in a 200-page premiere issue hitting newsstands in early May.

"This is already the biggest ad launch in the company's history," said Home PC Publisher Daniel Schwartz, whose magazine will target the entire home market.

A segment that no one owns and one that appears poised for explosive growth, family computer publishing is considered a natural outgrowth of the 1980s' rapid rise in business-to-business computer publishing.

"The growth of magazines serving special-interest users of computers is testimony to both the growth of the computer industry and also savvy marketing by publishers," said BPA International President-CEO Joseph Foley.

For instance, a total of 32 special-interest consumer computer magazines audited by BPA, with aggregate circulation of 5.5 million, averaged a 23% increase in circulation for the six months ended Dec. 31, 1993, compared with the same period in 1992.

Ann Young, media planner at DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, said: "Traditionally, we've concentrated in the information technology books for corporate buyers. The major computer makers have decided to broaden out; the new home books are weeding out consumers who are not interested in technology ... they are filling a niche, and a lot of the media buyers are very happy."

Scholastic's Family Computing will be quarterly, with monthly frequency expected sometime in 1995. For the first issue, Scholastic will polybag 600,000 copies with its quarterly Parent & Child; it will send another 200,000 to part of its paid circulation readership of Home Office Computing.

Insiders say Scholastic is trying to hammer out agreements for the distribution of up to 200,000 more copies in specialty retail outlets.

Meanwhile, 450,000 copies of Home PC's first issue will be distributed, with a guaranteed rate base of 200,000. Home PC will come out again in July before going monthly in September.

In June, Ziff-Davis/Disney will distribute 1 million copies of Family PC, cutting back distribution to 300,000 when regular every- other-monthly publication gets under way in September, said Asso ciate Publisher Michael Barrett, who recently joined from News week. The first is sue will also be polybagged with Disney-owned FamilyFun and Ziff-Davis' PC Computing, as well as the July issue of Ziff-Davis' MacUser.

"We expect Family PC will experience the same explosive growth as FamilyFun," said Jake Weinbaum, publishing director of both titles.

Scholastic plans to charge $38,000 for a one-time color ad in the high circulation book. Home PC charges $11,000 for a color ad with a 25% discount for charter subscribers. Ziff-Davis has set its one-time color rate at $7,600 for Family PC.

Ironically, Scholastic first launched a title called Family Computing in 1983 but repositioned and rechristened it in the mid-1980s as Home Office Computing because the company felt manufacturers were more interested in pursuing business-oriented home users.

After 10 years of red ink, the 400,000 circulation magazine finally posted its first profitable year in fiscal 1993, ended May 31.

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