The trend started with major metro dailies, which decided to polish their Sunday magazines by upgrading the paper stock and editorial content to create an environment more familiar to advertisers who buy in the glossy consumer magazines known to attract upscale readers.
The success of the makeovers whispered through the newspaper industry an,d eventually, other major-market dailies fell into line. Some of the Sunday magazines that have had a facelift: The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and, most recently, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Miami Herald, mulling a possible makeover, has a prototype ready.
"We are looking at the possibility of upgrading Tropic to a first-class glossy Sunday magazine," says Marilyn Adams, Herald marketing manager. "There are image advertisers who have been asking us, `Can you offer us a glossy?' We'd like to respond to those advertisers," says Ms. Adams.
"Although we are obviously not Chicago or New York, this is a huge tourist market-nearly 10 million tourists come here. A lot of those people make Florida their second home. . . It's taken on a new glamor aspect," says Ms. Adams.
The changes include modifying the name to Tropic, The Miami Herald Sunday Magazine, and changing the page size to 9.5" by 11.5" page format and putting color on every page.
The page size is a significant point of the cosmetic changes in most of the Sunday magazines, says Scott Santo, advertising development coordinator at the Inquirer.
"It became prohibitive for national advertisers to re-create their ads to go into different magazines. This gave leverage to Parade and USA Weekend. Someone had the bright idea we should all think about what it would take to make us go to the same trim size and provide a 20 million-to-30 million circulation," says Mr. Santo.
CAN'T CARRY WEAK SISTER
There was a day when newspapers were willing to carry the expense of a Sunday magazine, but no longer, says Mr. Santo.
"We have all been charged by our publishers to make our Sunday magazines profitable," says Mr. Santo.
In addition to a uniform size, many of the Sunday magazines also offer special editions-called Part Twos-on fashion, home decorating and travel.
"We are moving toward doing this together and organizing ourselves to do things around the same time," says Mr. Santo. Although no formal mechanism is in place, he notes most of the magazines run their sections within a three-week window-like a "sweeps weeks."
The Tribune about 18 months ago upgraded its Sunday magazine, says Bob Reese, supplements director."We determined that to maintain a successful magazine of our own, we had to go upscale. We changed the focus from a mass-audience magazine to an upscale product targeting fashion and national ad categories that run in consumer magazines such as Business Week, Time and People,"' says Mr. Reese.
The results are an 80% increase in readership, he says, plus greater profitability in spite of higher production and paper costs.
Mr. Reese says the change has made the Tribune more competitive with other books.
"We are now getting schedules from new cars, additional liquor, high-end and more exotic travel. We've expanded package goods and we're getting from [high-end] retailers a better cosmetics schedule, [which] would normally go to a consumer magazine," he says.
"It's easy to fold up your magazine and take Parade or USA Weekend, but it's a disservice to the readers. There's plenty of revenue for newspaper magazines and not just from local furniture dealers," says Mr. Reese.
PARTNERS WITH OTHER PAPERS
He notes that the Tribune partners with Los Angeles Times and The New York Times to present market data to potential national advertisers.
"These are the top three markets. We present readership and how we do against competitive magazines. We each do our own proposal and put it in one package. It's easy when you go into the agencies and explain reach and readership and it's all in the same langauge," adds Mr. Reese, who says the magazines are all the same size, printed on quality paper and done at R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. plants.
According to Mark Werzer, director of advertising at Los Angeles Times, his paper conducted surveys showing readers expect a quality magazine.
He says his Sunday magazine now attracts ads from Campari, Chanel, Christian Dior, Estee Lauder, The Gap and Johnnie Walker Red.
"These are advertisers we would not be running in the paper if we did not have the magazine," says Mr. Werzer. "We have $14 million [in ad revenue], which we would not carry if we did not have the magazine."
NORDSTROM JOINS UP
Nordstrom started buying advertising space in Inquirer Magazine after its redesign, says Colleen Chapman, Nordstrom sales promotion director.
She says the added emphasis on home and fashion editorial content is especially appealing.
"As a retailer, we are looking for an environment that talks to our customer. The redesigned Inquirer becomes a place where our customers go for information," says Ms. Chapman. Although Nordstrom doesn't advertise weekly in Inquirer, Ms. Chapman says the magazine is a big component of the retailer's ad plan in Philadelphia.
Although it's still early, revenue from the upgraded Inquirer Magazine is expected to be up 25%, says Harvey Hill, director of national advertising.
"We are running at that level now. It means we've upgraded the product, and from a revenue and expense standpoint, we've substantially reduced costs. It does not mean we are making money at this point, but we are doing a heck of a lot better than previously--even if you consider production costs."
In addition to Nordstrom's, the magazine has added the British Tourism Board and is targeting the credit card, alcohol, fashion, cosmetics, airlines, movies and automotive categories.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post Sunday magazine continues to hold fast to its size, mainly because its parent company also publishes Newsweek and the two have been printed at the same size and paper stock since 1986.
"We've just started the process of looking at combination buys and leveraging the Newsweek circulation," says Susan Peacock Draddy, the magazine's ad manager.
The Post, always considered one of the top-notch Sunday magazines in terms of editorial content, also experienced a bit of freshening.
In September 1995, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Steve Coll was hired as editor of the magazine. A year later he became the publication's first editor-publisher.
ADDS HUMOR, HOME, FASHION
The 40-to-50-page publication now has new features on humor, lifestyle, home and fashion. "Steve is attracting the best writers from the Post to write for the magazine. You really see a depth of editorial writing you don't find everywhere else," says Ms. Draddy.
Since the editorial changes, Acura and Nordstrom came on as advertisers and others such as American Express Co., Chanel, Crate & Barrel and Jennifer Convertibles have increased their schedule, says Ms. Draddy.
Although the Post does not offer Part Twos now, it may in the future.
The Post offers advertisers an opportunity to zone ads to portions of its 1.2 million Sunday circulation.
"Sears has used that capability. It's something we are just getting out to our customers," says Ms. Draddy.
The nips and tucks are worthwhile. A few years ago, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel made the difficult choice to downgrade its paper stock due to then-skyrocketing newsprint prices.
"No one was happy about this [decision to downgrade the paper stock]. The change did affect our advertising-not hugely. It did cost us some business," says Shelly Greenberger, VP-advertising.
Now that newsprint prices are down, the Sun-Sentinel is reviewing its Sunday magazine, including content, size and paper stock. A decision on whether the magazine will be revamped is expected by May 1, says Mr. Greenberger.
"We hope to get that business back and other business, if we do end up upgrading," he says.