In an effort to maintain its dominance with young families, Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing last week acquired Baby Magazine Group; terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
The transaction virtually guarantees that new mothers will continue to be exposed to the Parents brand in hospital delivery wards.
Parents' dominance in the marketplace seemed to be in jeopardy just a few months ago, when rival Parenting-owned by Time Inc.-bought First Moments, a leading sampling business that distributes free baskets in hospitals.
First Moments historically has carried Parents in its welcome basket to new parents.
LURING NEW SUBSCRIBERS
Free distribution is a tried technique by publishers to bait new subscribers, and Gruner & Jahr will benefit from Baby Magazine Group's avenues of free distribution.
Although First Moments will honor its contract to distribute Parents until it expires this year, next year it will begin to distribute Parenting.
Baby is distributed through J.C. Penney Co. and Baby Depot stores, and it also appears in GiftPax, a basket of infant supplies doled out to hospitals by Snyder Communications.
"This is really a critical link in the parenthood marketplace," said Judy Princz, senior VP-group publisher at Gruner & Jahr.
The Baby Magazine Group titles, with their accompanying distribution and sampling opportunities, will open up new venues for G&J's Parents Baby Group, she said.
Baby Magazine Group's titles also include Infant Care Guide and compete in the pre-natal and post-natal front. It also produces Childbirth Instructor Magazine.
'PARENTS' CIRC FLAT
Parents is the biggest circulation title in the category, and ended the last six months of 1998 flat (down 0.1%) at 1,742,824, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures. Parenting was up 12.4% to 1,257,124 for the same period.
But it's on the unpaid-circulation front where the titles vie to be the first in the hands of mothers of newborns. Both publishing groups produce several other titles, such as Parents Baby and Parenting Your New Baby, that are distributed through childbirth classes, hospitals and doctors' offices with coupons and samples of advertiser products.
Because the number of new parents is essentially flat, circulation growth for any of these titles is difficult, dependent as they are on the number of newborns each year.
"What I like is this deal is a completely seamless transition for the Parents Baby Group. We are able to keep going into the hospitals and ob/gyn environment without missing a beat," Ms. Princz said.
"Because Baby's deal is with GiftPax, which we think is the best in business given they are the company that founded the business and is the most expert,