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In an unusual move for Conde Nast Publications, a corporate ad sales project used to pull in financial services sponsors is being used to test the waters for a new personal finance magazine.

"At the moment, it's a test. We'll see what happens. We haven't committed to it yet," said Conde Nast President-CEO Steve Florio.

Regardless, he said he's pleased with how the supplement has opened the door to new advertiser revenue for the company, which is heavily dependent on such categories as beauty and fashion.

Advertisers already in the trial publication include Microsoft Corp., Dreyfus Corp., Smith Barney and Apple Computer.


The roots of the project go back to 1996, when Conde Nast, publisher of 16 lifestyle titles, decided it wanted a larger share of the more than $690 million spent on print financial service advertising last year. At the time, Conde Nast's share of that spending was $11 million, said Catherine Viscardi Johnston, exec VP-group sales and marketing.

Though there is yet no name for it, the 44-page "outsert," written by financial expert, author and Self columnist Suze Orman, will be polybagged with April '98 subscriber copies of all Conde Nast titles. (Bride's, which has a high newsstand circulation, will include the outsert in selected newsstand markets.) The total circulation will be over 9 million, 35% of that male.

"The response has been very strong from the ad community. If it's equally as strong from the consumers we may consider it as the basis for a new title," Ms. Viscardi Johnston said.


Testing a new-magazine idea is unusual for Conde Nast, which unlike most other major publishers usually proceeds right to full-blown launches.

The personal finance field is already crowded. In August, Meredith Corp. launched Family Money, aimed primarily at women. Other titles in the field include Time Inc.'s Money, Capital Publishing's Worth, Kiplinger's Personal Finance and SmartMoney, a joint venture of Dow Jones & Co. and Hearst Magazines.

Three different versions of the Conde Nast publication will be produced, each aimed at distinct demographic groups: young aspirants, boomers and established aspirants.

"One of the problems the financial services advertisers have is that they are preaching to the converted. If you are reading one of the personal finance magazines, you are probably already involved in investing your money," said Ms. Viscardi Johnston, adding that the editorial emphasis of the outserts is on making financial jargon accessible. "They need to expand their customer base by speaking to new customers in a different language. This is a way for these advertisers to take a half-step into consumer lifestyle publications."


To further explore the potential for this market, Conde Nast joined with the New York Stock Exchange to sponsor a Yankelovich study of 1,668 adults about their attitudes on debt, bankruptcy, taking risks, assets and retirement plans.

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