SIMMONS PLANS DEFINITIVE SURVEY OF GAY CONSUMERS

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Simmons Market Research Bureau and ad agency Mulryan/Nash, New York, are teaming to introduce a benchmark study of gay consumers in an effort to provide more factual data on a market bogged down by stereotypes.

The spring study will determine gay and lesbian demographics, media use, buying habits and other information. Simmons will select at least 2,000 people from a broad base of gay subscription, direct mail and other lists for the mail survey.

PREVIOUS STUDIES

Previous Simmons studies for the National Gay Newspaper Guild have been inaccurately applied to the overall gay market since the late '80s. A '93 Yankelovich Monitor study sampled fewer than 150 people and so wasn't considered definitive, but began to overturn assumptions about the affluence of gay households.

The data will be useful to a growing number of companies interested in the market and the gay magazine industry, currently in a state of flux as it tries to more clearly define itself.

Out, for example, has paved the ad road for gay magazines but not without growing pains. The industry leader in ad pages and circulation recently replaced its founding president and editor in chief, Michael Goff, after a dispute over expansion plans. Sarah Petit was named the new editor in chief and Henry Scott the new president. To save costs, the monthly's size shrank and it went to cheaper paper with the March issue.

'OUT'BREAKS RECORD

Still, Out just broke a new circulation record of 119,500 for the six months ended Dec. 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the first time a gay magazine passed 100,000. Its closest competitor, The Advocate, is audited at 74,300. The Advocate is the oldest gay magazine but hasn't been the savviest marketing-wise.

"Intellectually, we're 30 years old, but from the standpoint of national advertising, we're 2 years old," said Sam Watters, publisher of the every-other-weekly. "We all owe a great deal to [Out] for the work they've done."

HARDER TIMES

Other magazines have had harder times. 10 Percent ceased publishing last summer but intends to relaunch a magazine targeted only at gay men in June, with another version for women to come later. Every-other-monthly Urban Fitness went under early last year but came back last fall with new financing.

"I'm not sure the market needs any more media, it seems pretty saturated," said Anne Censullo, associate media director at Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners, New York, which handles Carillon Importers' Stolichnaya vodka. "Our budgets for gay media aren't increasing."

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