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'TIME' PONDERS SWITCH TO PRE-WEEKEND DELIVERY: MOVE WOULD MIMIC 'PEOPLE'; 'NEWSWEEK' WILL STAND PAT

By Published on .

Time Inc.'s flagship Time is seriously weighing a switch to pre-weekend delivery, a move that could change the way the leading newsweeklies compete.

Time sibling People set the stage for the move by switching to pre-weekend delivery this year (AA, July 14). That change was made primarily to boost newsstand sales by getting the magazine to single-copy outlets in time for consumers' weekend shopping trips.

181,591 IN NEWSSTAND SALES

Time's weekly newsstand sales, which averaged 181,591 for the first half of 1997, don't approach those of People, which averaged 1.4 million for the period, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Still, Time Inc. President-CEO Don Logan believes it's worth considering a switch for Time.

"All the tests we did of People indicated that we can get a higher level of sales by getting fresh magazines into the stores prior to the weekend. For the newsweeklies to do it means changing their editorial cycle, which is a consideration," he said. "But seven days is seven days, and as long as you have current news in the issue when it comes out, then I don't see the problem."

Mr. Logan did not say when Time Inc. will make a decision on the move, or when the move would be made.

'NEWSWEEK' WON'T FOLLOW SUIT

If Time does make the change, its archrival is not likely to follow suit. In fact, the Washington Post Co.'s Newsweek said it might take advantage of such a move by Time to differentiate itself.

"It would be great to have them come out at a different time than us," said Richard M. Smith, president-editor in chief of Newsweek. Having different deadlines and delivery days would reduce the chances of the magazines carrying identical covers, he added.

Mr. Smith said he believes the current deadlines work best from an editorial standpoint.

"There is a reason we have it the way that we do, and that is because that is the government's week of business, the business world's week of business," he said

U.S. News & World Report, however, is exploring pre-weekend delivery, a spokesman said.

THURSDAY DEADLINE?

Both Time and Newsweek currently have Saturday deadlines, while U.S. News has a Friday deadline. To set up pre-weekend delivery, Time would probably have to move to a Thursday deadline.

Since the newsweeklies sell the bulk of their copies by subscription, newsstand sales are a small factor in building overall circulation. Time has a total paid circulation approaching 4.2 million.

Newsweek sells an average 154,382 copies at the newsstand every week (out of total circulation of nearly 3.3 million); U.S. News averages 47,700 single copies per week (total circulation, 2.2 million).

Mr. Logan said a changing newsstand market is a key reason to consider the switch. Already, Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly are moving toward early delivery.

Of Time's rivals, he said, "It doesn't matter to me one way or the other if the other two do it. We're going to decide what's right for us."

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