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By Published on .

The first half of 1999 was tough for eight of the top 10 largest circulation magazines, all either flat or down in total circulation. Two that bucked the trend were Hearst Magazines' Good Housekeeping and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Woman's Day.

Not surprisingly, given their recent rate base reductions, Reader's Digest and TV Guide took some of the biggest hits to their overall circulations, off 8.9% and 9.8%, respectively, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations and BPA International.


Despite rampant talk of depressed response rates to direct-mail packages and sweepstakes offers, there's no clear evidence in the half-year report of widespread subscription losses.

Circulation experts said the strong advertising market and favorable paper prices have offset the lower response rates, and most publishers were able to turn to other, more expensive subscription sources to make up for sweepstakes shortfalls.

"Nobody has said they are going to cut rate base. They are going to be pulling out every stop they can to maintain," said Chip Block, president of circulation consultancy Applied Interactive Media. "As long as paper prices remain reasonable, the economics are there for publishers to maintain current rate bases."

Both Newsweek and Time are off slightly in subscriptions for the first half of 1999, down 1.3% and 1%, respectively. But U.S. News & World Report was flat (up 0.4%) in subscriptions at 2.165 million and flat (up 0.2%) in total circulation at 2.205 million.

Newsweek's overall circulation slid 1.5% to 3.178 million, while Time's total circulation was off 1% to 4.083 million.

Both American Media's biggest titles were down. National Enquirer dropped 12.5% in subscriptions to 442,396, while total circulation dipped just 0.2% to 2.202 million. The Star lost 15.3% of its subscriptions, reaching 338,045, while total circulation fell 6% to 1.787 million.

Time Inc.'s People showed a 1.6% decline in total circulation to 3.659 million, due to newsstand declines of 7.3%. But subscriptions rose 2.1%.


George slipped 3.4% to 405,153, just making its rate base of 400,000, while Vanity Fair was down 4.8% to 1.064 million.

Sports Illustrated, another Time Inc. title, was relatively flat (up 0.3%) in subscriptions totaling 3.143 million, while total circulation inched ahead 0.4% to 3.281 million.

The general interest men's category was topped by Dennis Publishing's Maxim, up 139.6% in total circulation to 1.152 million.

The seven largest circulating women's service titles were mostly flat to down, with only Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day showing slight growth in total circulation -- 2.4% and 0.1%, respectively.

After several years of strong gains, circulation increases at Martha Stewart Living slowed to just 0.8% growth to 2.254 million.

At Hearst, Cosmopolitan, up 11.5% to 2.879 million, can credit strong newsstand sales of 2.040 million, up 14%. Sister title Marie Claire also posted strong newsstand sales, up 22.2% to 507,516, with a total circulation of 853,875, up

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