`ASPIRE' AIMS TO SUCCEED IN SECULAR WORLD

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Sex sells, but a year-old women's service magazine is aspiring to sell without it.

The title, Aspire, shuns the racy coverlines and sex-oriented stories offered by many of the Seven Sisters. Its November issue includes stories on Graham Kerr, holiday parties, getting kids to open up, career advice and nesting do's and don'ts for moms-to-be.

Magazine experts say Aspire has an interesting idea and that it's a top-quality product. The fact the monthly went national this fall with the help of Hearst Corp.'s distribution muscle should help the publication.

But some are skeptical of Aspire's long-term prognosis-and not because it abstains from sex.

Aspire's biggest challenge will come from within. The magazine is published by Thomas Nelson Inc., the world's largest publisher of Christian books, and it's based on Christian philosophies.

"Aspire is not a Christian magazine. It's a women's life-style magazine," says Publisher Timothy Gilmour.

But the fact that it comes from a religious publisher is going to turn many advertisers off, says Martin S. Walker, chairman of magazine consultancy Walker Communications.

"All religious publications struggle with advertising," says Mr. Walker.

Aspire has grown steadily since its first issue was published a year ago, with paid circulation now at 150,000 and estimates by Mr. Gilmour that that will double next year.

However, so far there are only a few national advertisers-Nordic Track, Fingerhut Cos., and the religious music division of Sony Corp.'s Columbia House.

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