'GOOD HOUSEKEEPING' CIRC MOVE A FIRST FOR FIELD: HEARST TITLE BREAKS FROM 7 SISTERS IN PUBLISHING AVERAGE PRICE PAID

By Published on .

Hearst Magazines' Good Housekeeping is breaking ranks with the Seven Sisters to become the first women's service title to list the average price paid per subscription on its Audit Bureau of Circulations statement.

"Hearst had a corporate policy not to publish the average price paid," said Good Housekeeping Publisher Patricia Haegele. She advocated a change in January, after Ford Motor Co. executives said buys would partially be based on who published that information.

FIRST APPEARING THIS SUMMER

The women's monthly will first publish its information in the audit bureau's report on first-half circulation, due after June 30.

When GH staff analyzed audit bureau publisher's statements for June 1996, they found GH subscribers on average paid more per copy than those of other women's service titles: GH buyers pay on average $1.61 per copy, while Woman's Day readers pay $1.14; Ladies' Home Journal, $1.11; Family Circle, $1.06; Better Homes & Gardens, 91 cents; and McCall's, 94 cents. Redbook was not included in the analysis but has an average price of $1.27.

Just how much more GH readers truly pay per copy is bound to be disputed.

All standard audit bureau publishers' statements list basic prices for newsstand and subscription copies, as well as what percentage is sold at higher than and lower than basic prices. Although each price that magazines are sold at is listed, the statements do not list how many copies are sold at specific prices. Therefore, calculating findings such as GH's requires averaging the prices.

Another subject of debate is that the audit bureau calculates average price paid for a full year and uses some figures not available on the publisher's statement-leaving GH's analysis inexact but still groundbreaking.

"I don't know how many buyers will be willing to take Good Housekeeping's word on what everyone else's price is. But if they are out saying magazine X's average price is this, the others are going to have to answer the question. It's probably a smart move," said Roberta Garfinkle, VP-print director at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

NOT FOLLOWING SUIT

Executives from both Meredith Corp. and Gruner & Jahr Publishing USA said they are not interested in following suit. But Meredith said it would consider providing this information for advertisers requesting it, providing advertisers understand the potential for error.

"We are skeptical about doing it because the [audit bureau] number can be exceedingly misleading in indicating the true rate earned by a magazine," said Meredith President-Publishing Group Chris Little.

Hachette Filipacchi, parent of Woman's Day, has a corporate policy not to list price, though "in the long run, I think it's a good idea. But they need to work out some of the kinks," said John Fennell, senior VP-chief operating officer.

The decision to list the average price paid on publisher's statements is optional and relatively new. In 1995, the audit bureau ruled the listing would be optional unless a magazine made a specific claim while selling to advertisers. Then the audit bureau would begin calculating and listing it.

Some 46 titles, including all Conde Nast Publications magazines and a good number of Time Inc.'s, have listed these data in the June and/or December 1996

In this article:
Most Popular