'Times' unveils circulation plans for '97

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The New York Times said it has inked a multi-year agreement with Murdoch Magazines Distribution Inc. to provide circulation and retail marketing as the paper seeks a stronger presence--and bigger circulation numbers--for its national edition.Currently, about 400,000 of the paper's total paid circulation is derived from its national edition. Times publisher Arthur Sulberger, Jr. has told Wall Street analysts that the long term goal is to boost circulation of the national edition to 550,000.

The national edition currently draws most of its circulation from major metro markets and the deal with MMDI is designed to give it heightened presence in convenience stores and other outlets beyond the major metro areas and transportation hubs."They'll handle racking, promotional material and try to convince retailers who are not carrying us that they should be carrying us," said William Pollack, exec VP-circulation for the Times. "They have the relationships with buyers at Safeway, Krogers and 7-Eleven," he said.As part of the drive to build national circulation, over the next two years the company has earmarked between $10 million to $20 million in advertising and marketing. "That's the kind of investment it takes to develop a national brand," said Mr. Pollack.

On the home delivery front, Times Company has forged new deals with home deliverers at daily papers in 27 cities that will now deliver the Times along with the local paper. In addition, next month, the paper is overhauling its Northeast edition which for the first time will be printed at plants outside New York--in the Boston and Washington D.C. areas--allowing for later closing times and more complete coverage of news throughout the Northeast. By September of '97 the Times also plans to add four-color to editorial and advertising and expand its four section metro-edition into a six-section paper that will have a standalone Sports and Cultural section, Mr. Sulzberger has said.

Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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