STURM SEES MORE NATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR PAPERS:NEW NAA CHIEF SEES AD POTENTIAL IN COORDINATING SPECIAL SECTIONS ACROSS COUNTRY

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After more than a decade as a behind-the-scenes media lawyer and lobbyist, John Sturm is enjoying the limelight as the new president-CEO of the Newspaper Association of America.

"Newspapers are and always will be at the center of the information mix," said Mr. Sturm last week in his first keynote address to the group's annual convention in New York.

TAKING OVER FROM BLACK

He vowed to carry on many of the initiatives in marketing and new media begun by Cathleen Black, his high-profile predecessor who resigned in November to become president of Hearst Magazines.

"She built a great foundation," said the 49 year old, who was the NAA's VP-public policy and general counsel before catapulting to the top spot. Prior to that, he had spent eight years as VP-government affairs at CBS.

Marketing and new-media efforts will remain at the forefront, he said.

"We probably spend a third of our resources-some $9 million to $10 million-on marketing and only about 10% on public policy. That will continue to be the case," he said.

NAA is working on new creative that would supply ads to local papers. Mr. Sturm, for instance, is assembling a first-ever timetable that would coordinate special features so that things like local gardening, home or automotive sections would run on a national basis simultaneously and help draw more national ad dollars.

Another countrywide effort is the Newspaper National Network. In 1995, its first full year, the network attracted an estimated $40 million in national advertising by offering marketers from Chrysler Corp. to Glaxo Wellcome a centralized billing option for running the same ad in many newspapers across the U.S.

"We expect the revenue to expand to $55 million to $60 million this year," Mr. Sturm said.

GOOD TIMES

He takes over the association at a time of relative strength for daily newspapers. The demise of afternoon dailies eased in 1995 despite crushing newsprint price increases, and the number of Sunday newspapers actually rose.

Advertising revenue in all daily newspapers last year expanded at a 5.6% clip, to $36 billion. The newspaper industry's total revenue last year, including advertising and circulation, was up 5% to $45.7 billion, and Mr. Sturm projects a growth rate this year of 6%.

After a slow start in the first half, growth will be aided in the third and fourth quarters by Olympics and election-related advertising, he predicted.

NEWSPRINT PRICES MAY DROP

Over the past three months, newsprint prices have stabilized and now appear ready to drop, he said. That has stalled a major initiative by some publishers to drastically slash the web-width size of papers from the current level of 54-56 inches to about 50 inches.

"Publishers are still going to be conservative with regard to paper usage," he said, "but most of the trim size reductions will probably be minor slices which will not have an impact on the standard advertising unit."

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