'USA WEEKEND' WINS THOMSON, OUSTING ITS RIVAL: 'PARADE' ADDS PHILLY DAILY; MULLS OFFERING DATABASE OF PARENT ADVANCE

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Parade and USA Weekend may be jointly pitching ad agencies on the strength of their category, but the rivals remain locked in a bare-knuckles battle for readers and advertisers.

The latest battleground involves distribution through the Thomson Newspapers chain. Beginning in January, USA Weekend will be distributed in 30 Thomson newspapers, including its two largest: the Bridgeport, Conn., Connecticut Post and The Repository in Canton, Ohio.

As a result, Parade has pulled out of 10 Thomson newspapers that had planned to offer both titles.

Parade's contract for Sunday distribution in those papers ran through the spring, said Parade Chairman-Publisher Carlo Vittorini, who balked at a plan to distribute USA Weekend in those papers on Fridays.

FRIDAY 'USA WEEKEND'

USA Weekend Publisher Charles Gabrielson, however, said Thomson was discontinuing Parade as of Jan. 4, with some papers delivering USA Weekend on Fridays at their discretion.

Thomson Newspapers President-CEO Stuart Garner said that earlier this year, his company made a decision to go with one supplier.

Previously, each of Thomson's dailies with Sunday editions made its own choice.

"As of Jan. 4, the vast majority of our 68 newspapers will be carrying USA Weekend" as a result of a long-term contract, said Mr. Garner, citing a range of benefits from having one supplier, including improved customer service.

With the Thomson win, USA Weekend's circulation will rise to 21.2 million through 526 newspapers.

Parade, however, has won the Philadelphia Inquirer, until now never a carrier of either title. As of January, Parade -- owned by the Newhouse family's Advance Publica- tions -- will boast a category-leading weekly distribution of 37.2 million copies through 324 newspapers.

DISTRIBUTION STRATEGIES

Both Parade and USA Weekend follow the same strategy for newspaper distribution. Newspapers pay a fixed rate per thousand copies carried, but then also share a percentage of the ad revenue from each issue.

Most newspapers carrying either Sunday magazine receive a cut of national advertising while a percentage of regional ad revenue is guaranteed to newspapers within appropriate markets.

Both publications average between $5 to $8 per thousand copies, after the ad revenue share is taken into account. USA Weekend, said Mr. Gabrielson, guarantees the price will not go above $8 per thousand.

According to Parade Exec VP Jack Kliger, the weekly is exploring offering newspaper clients use of the Advance Publications data

base, which includes Conde Nast and The New Yorker subcribers and information from Random House.

"By merging/purging a newspaper's database with a sample from the Advance database, we can give newspapers information about their readers that they didn't have before."

While Parade outpaces USA Weekend in circulation, the two are neck and neck in ad pages. And with a one-time color page rate of $638,700 for Parade and $392,700 for USA Weekend, every page counts in this battle.

OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS

"The tough part for planners who usually buy print to get used to is the out-of-pocket costs," said Roberta Garfinkle, VP-print director, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York. "They just aren't used to paying $600,000 for one insertion, and there aren't that many print buyers with budgets to accommodate that."

In the first 10 months of this year, USA Weekend carried 549.2 pages, a 10.2% gain over the same period last year. Parade was right behind with 548.4 pages, a 5% jump.

Overall, the Sunday magazine field as tracked by Publishers Information Bureau was down slightly in ad pages through October, largely because the redesigned Los Angeles Times Magazine saw pages drop 20% to 659.1.

The field's other major player, The New York Times Magazine, carried 2,450.3 pages for the period, up 0.9%.

NO DUPLICATION

Messrs. Gabrielson and Vittorini said the joint presentation developed on the Sunday magazine category and presented to the American Association of Advertising Agencies earlier this year was well received, especially the concept of using the two together since each market is only covered by one publication.

"No duplication is a huge strength, and it's all efficient reach," said Mr. Vittorini, adding that the pair's combined distribution is more than 57 million each week.

The general presentation has been targeted for the direct-to-consumer prescription drug ad market as well, said Mr. Gabrielson.

USA Weekend saw growth in prescription drugs, food, automotive, entertainment and direct-response categories this year, he added. It has also had success with special sections created for automotive, home videos and travel advertisers, such as Chrysler Corp. and Sea World.

Parade, said Mr. Vittorini, also saw growth in Rx drugs, automotive and direct response, and has added a home video guide of its own.

FRESH BLOOD FOR BATTLE

Both publications have brought in fresh blood to keep the battle raging.

Parade hired Mr. Kliger, a former Conde Nast corporate executive, as exec VP in June, and he recently tapped former Cosmopolitan ad director Jennifer Gallo as senior VP-advertising director.

Mr. Kliger, 50, is viewed by many as Parade's heir apparent, although the 68-year-old Mr. Vittorini has not announced his retirement plans.

Mr. Gabrielson took over ad duties after former president-publisher Brette Popper left in 1996 and Editor Marcia Bullard took on the additional titles of president-CEO.

Parade's teen publication, React, also has shown growth this year, with 163 newspapers distributing over 3.5 million copies through the newspapers and to schools affiliated with Newspapers in Education programs.

Advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co., Coty, Sega of America, Nintendo of

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