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Magazine ad pages overall held steady through the first half, despite rumblings it would be hard to sustain growth this year after 1997's strong performance.

Ad pages for the industry were up 3%, to 116,339.89, for January through June, compared with the same period the year before, according to Pulishers Information Bureau. Sunday magazines were down 5.1% to 2,347.80 ad pages as a category.

"The year has held up better than those on the pessimistic side had thought," said Donald Kummerfeld, president of Magazine Publishers of America. "We had repeated discussions with publishers [about it being] hard to keep growing as we moved further into the year and began to compare to last year's higher . . . numbers. The gains have diminished a bit, but not really much."


The softness seen early in the year in the auto and medicines and proprietary remedies categories continued. Automotive ad revenue is down 3.5%, to $851,347,588; medicines and proprietary remedies is down 8.9%, to $351,675,901.

Magazines "are still feeling the impact of the loosening of restrictions" on prescription drug marketers using TV ads, said Thomas Robinson, VP-research at MPA. Prescription drug ad pages January through June were down 22%, to 2,585, in the first half.

A few smaller ad categories had remarkably strong growth, however, thanks to some marketers boosting their magazine ad budgets significantly, Mr. Robinson said.

Gasoline and fuels was up 168%, with Shell Oil Co. increasing its first-half spending from $1.1 million in the '97 period to $9.1 million. Castrol North America also raised its ad spending from $58,000 to $3.2 million, and competitor Pennzoil Co. doubled its spending-from $470,000 in first-half '97 to $902,000 this year.


In the games, toys and hobby crafts category, up 71% January through June, Mattel increased magazine ad spending 600%, from '97's $278,000 to $2 million. Nintendo of America spent $50,000 in magazines in the first half of '97, but $1.2 million this year. Sony Electronics increased ad spending from $1.4 million to $3.8 million.

A new ad campaign from the California Almond Board pumped $3.5 million into the category.

"The traditional big categories are still increasing for the first half, but the growth in the smaller categories shows the diversity of the advertisers that have come to depend on magazines for advertising," said Mr. Robinson.

Time fared best of the newsweeklies for the first half, up 5.7%. Newsweek was down 4.2%, while U.S. News & World Report was down 8.0%.

The women's service titles collectively had an inconsistent first half. Better Homes & Gardens and Woman's Day were each down 1.8%. Family Circle was up 4.3%. Ladies' Home Journal was up 6.1%. Good Housekeeping had the biggest gain in the field, up 10.9%, while Redbook was down 9.9% and McCall's up 4.1.

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