The Biz: Advance, 'Parade' in subscription deal

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The Advance Magazine Group, which encompasses Conde Nast Publications, Fairchild Publications and Golf Digest Cos., is teaming with Sunday-newspaper magazine and corporate sibling Parade in a broad-based bid for a new stream of subscriptions.

Parade is assisting Advance in scouting out its newspaper partners interested in offering readers subscriptions that combine the local newspaper with one of Advance's 25 consumer magazines, said Parade Publisher Randy Siegel. Peter Armour, Advance's senior VP-consumer marketing, stated in an e-mail that 30 newspapers-which include some within the company's own Newhouse Newspapers-are considering testing or already testing offers with the magazine giant.

Advance is pursuing these deals now thanks to recent rule changes at the Audit Bureau of Circulations. ABC recently loosened up price-point requirements for combination offers to count as paid circulation, so long as publications reveal if they obtain a significant volume of subscriptions from these offers. These initiatives come as both magazines and newspapers struggle to retain old readers and attract new ones.

combination offers

Advance began plumbing combination newspaper-magazine subscription offers with its Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper last August. For about a month, Advance's site has run combination offers on the bottom of its home page. This month, Web surfers could find this offer: "Order the Plain Dealer and receive a one-year subscription to your favorite magazine at 75% off." This offer listed 21 Advance titles, including Vanity Fair, Golf Digest, Details and Lucky. Mr. Armour indicated that similar programs are already offered or will be shortly offered at Advance newspapers in New Orleans, and Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Mich. Other dailies not part of the Advance network that the company has reached out to or is already testing offers, Mr. Armour and Mr. Siegel said, are the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe. (Spokespersons or circulation directors at those dailies did not return calls seeking comment.)

Mr. Siegel said Parade received no money for helping pull together these deals. "Obviously, the more success our newspaper partners have [in gaining subscribers] increases our circulation as well." The deals also could buy Parade some good will as it girds for the imminent debut of Time Inc.'s Life as a newspaper supplement, which remains close to a deal with, among other chains and individual titles, the Chicago Tribune's parent Tribune Co.

the fine print

So far, though, these combination offers have meant little to magazines' subscriber files. The statements that newspapers and magazines must file with the Audit Bureau of Circulations have a fine-print section where "combination" subscription offers must be detailed, if they account for significant circulation. The most recent filings from the Plain Dealer and a host of Advance magazines turned up no mention of the combination offers-except for a slightly opaque reference in GQ's: "Several offers were made, none of which produced more than 1% of total subscriptions sold in the period. All of these offers taken together produced less than 1% of the total subscriptions sold in this period." (GQ sold 350,297 subscriptions in that particular period.)

Conde Nast executives would not discuss specific subscription figures, but President-CEO Charles H. "Chuck" Townsend said early tests had "gone well enough for us to roll [these offers] out very broadly."

While Advance is broadening these efforts, rival Time Inc. is pulling back. "We did some testing" in major cities, said Doug Glazer, director-business development for Time Inc. unit Time Direct Ventures. "Not all of it panned out." He said last year the magazine giant tested newspaper-magazine offers in around 20 markets-primarily for weeklies Time, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly-but have since "scaled it back to a handful."

But he added that Time Inc. may well have an ace in the hole, should the Life project roll out.

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