SIMMONS RESEARCH REPAIRS REPUTATION

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Simmons Market Research Bureau is recapturing lost business a year after controversy forced an overhaul of the way it conducts magazine readership surveys.

The new Simmons Study of Media & Markets scraps the traditional "through the book" research technique in favor of the "recent-reading" method used by rival Mediamark Research Inc. Business Simmons has lured back includes two Hearst Magazines titles, Redbook and Cosmopolitan, and Conde Nast Publications' Glamour, Vanity Fair and Bon Appetit as well as another magazine from the Newhouse empire, The New Yorker.

"They've worked hard on the research, and they have a good new president," said Conde Nast President Steve Florio.

The new president is Rebecca McPheters, a former VP-research from The New York Times Co.'s Women's Magazines Group, who succeeded Ellen Cohen a year ago.

At the time, Simmons was under fire from magazine and agency executives about its methodology and the high costs of its reports. Hearst stopped subscribing in 1993, and last year Conde Nast followed suit. The lost business was estimated at $1.5 million-plus.

In "through the book" research, respondents flip through an entire magazine to explain how much they've actually read. The "recent-reading" method merely requires respondents to say whether they've read a recent issue. The latter technique is considered to be less comprehensive, but it's cheaper and less time-consuming, and more titles can be measured.

On top of that, several members of the Magazine Publishers of America's research committee last year noticed what they felt were illogical numbers in the research materials relating to how readers were screened and the total number of readers in an audience.

The dispute was made moot when Ms. McPheters came in and decided to go to the "recent-reading" method.

On Sept. 28, Simmons released its first readership reports since changing the methodology.

"We really worked on this to make it different," said Ms. McPheters. Changes were made to allow for the measurement of more titles and reduce the burden on respondents who are drawn from a representative sample of 20,000. "We've also cut down on ascription," she said. That was the commonly used research method that essentially made up answers for non-respondents based on answers of respondents who matched up similarly in demographic information.

The new survey, conducted from October 1994 to last August, found the magazine with the largest audience is Parade with 81.4 million adult readers, followed by Reader's Digest with 58.5 million and TV Guide with 47.3 million.

The largest number of readers per copy belonged to Handguns with 23.34 followed by Bridal Guide with 17.78 and Muscle & Fitness with 17.39.

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