SPECIALTY TITLES OUTDO STAGNANT GIANTS' GROWTH;NON-PAID CIRCULATION

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In the first half of 1995, it was a case of more of the same on the circulation front. Among the top 200 circulation magazines, 51.5% posted gains, 42.5% showed declines and 6% were flat.

It was the specialized magazines that showed robust growth while many of the big mass titles were flat or down.

Industry giant Reader's Digest was up 0.7%, while TV Guide was down 1.8% as it prepared to drop its rate base guarantee by 1 million on July 1.

"The big magazines suffer because there is a lot more competition in the marketplace," said Richard Perricelli, a partner at Tuckahoe, N.Y.-based Magazine Communications Consultants. "The problem is that there are 4,000 magazines out there looking for retail distribution."

Among the top 10 largest circulating magazines, six were in decline paced by the 3.8% drop at No. 1 Modern Maturity and the 3% drop at No. 4 National Geographic.

Only No. 6 Good Housekeeping was up more than 1% in the top 10, rising to 5,127,340, a 1.9% advance. Its sister title at Hearst Magazines, No. 17 Redbook, posted a 2% gain.

Yet both those magazines have already said they intend to let their rate bases ride downward in the second half of the year by eliminating marginal circulation.

"It's been a darn tough year for circulation," said Stuart Jordan, VP at Circulation Specialists, Westport, Conn. "It wasn't a great direct mail year to start with and on top of that, the stamp sheet houses like American Family Publishers and Publishers Clearing House are underperforming."

In this day of skyrocketing newsprint costs and the postage hike, many publishers this time around were just as happy to see their circulation decline, especially at established or mature titles. But it is still a case of onward and upward for younger specialty magazines that are still in the growth mode.

Among the top 200, Martha Stewart Living set a scorching hot pace, rising 38% in paid circulation and proving to marketers that it should have no problem meeting its June 1 rate base advance to 1.2 million.

And even before the introduction of Windows 95 software from Microsoft Corp., CMP Publications' Windows was raising the curtain on new circulation records. In the first half, its paid circulation was up 31.5% to 622,652.

In the personal finance arena, Worth remains red hot-surging by 28.3% in the first half to 501,169. Archrival SmartMoney kept slightly ahead in total circulation at 576,338 for the six month period, up 15.5%.

As specialized magazines continue to flex their muscle, it has helped spawn a whole new industry for publishers who seek outlets beyond the traditional routes of U.S. mail, supermarket checkout counters and the reliance on circulation building sweepstakes run by Publishers Clearing House and American Family Publishers.

Two-year-old Retail Vision, Middlebury, Vt., today handles more than 100 specialized consumer magazines being marketed through some 25,000 retail outlets-from sporting goods stores to teddy bear shops.

"It's a source of distribution that is often overlooked but it's growing tremendously," said VP Jill Baron.

A number of specialty titles didn't qualify for the top 200, but should be watched. Two-year-old Wired -thanks in part to an infusion of circulation know-how from minority partner Conde Nast Publications-shows no sign of slowing down, rocketing upward by 90.2% to 208,745.

And despite a change in corporate ownership-from Wenner Media to Hachette Filipacchi Magazines- Family Life still sizzled with a 115.8% gain in paid circulation to 361,141, making it the fastest growing of all titles tracked by Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Among the sliders: all of the soap titles as O.J. Simpson trial coverage pre-empted many of the shows in the daytime slots, particularly during the first half of the year. Soap Opera Update skidded 24.6%, Soap Opera Weekly dropped 11% and Soap Opera Digest fell 9.5%.

Other titles that rely on more traditional supermarket checkout counters and newsstands also appeared to take a hit. People slumped by 5.2% while the National Enquirer nosedived by 16.4%.

Also hard hit: titles tied to the strike-shortened baseball season. Beckett Baseball Card Weekly almost tumbled out of the top 200 with a 29.2% circulation freefall. The smaller USA Today Baseball Weekly fared even worse, falling 31.5% to 214,840.

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Non-paid circulation

Top magazines with 1 million or more non-paid circulation for the first half of 1995 (compared with the same period in 1994) based on Audit Bureau of Circulations and BPA International figures. ABC and BPA also audit paid circulation. See notes below.

Rank PublicationCirculation % chg

1 The Disney Channel Magazine5,598,145 -0.3%

2 Nest Egg2,173,390 N/A

3 RX Remedy2,018,831 29.1%

4 CompuServe Magazine1,685,370 54.9%

5 Beyond the Wall1,610,750 217.9%

6 U-The Nat'l College Magazine*1,567,113 2.5%

7 Healthy Kids1,504,248 0.0%

8 TigerDirect-DOS/Windows1,424,251 42.1%

9 American Baby*1,229,101 17.8%

10 Fantastic Flyer Magazine1,224,062 -0.6%

11 Heartland USA*1,095,537 0.2%

12 Chevy Outdoors*1,025,267 -6.0%

13 Baby Talk*1,004,733 -22.8%

*In addition to the above, the following magazines reported paid circulation: U-The Nat'l College Magazine, 76; American Baby, 259,664; Heartland USA, 4,463; Chevy Outdoors, 146; Baby Talk, 1,213.

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