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A collaborative program among 21 daily newspapers in the Boston area of dominant influence is changing the way major retailers are using and buying the medium in that market.

The Suburban Plus Insert Network is a consortium of 16 publishers whose 21 papers collectively cover more than 150 suburban Boston communities, reaching more than 1.5 million readers.

Managed since July 1993 by Landon Associates, a New York-based newspaper marketing company, SPIN offers large retail chains customized newspaper circulation zoned by ZIP code for free standing inserts. Using SPIN's "one order, one bill" system, retailers can make highly targeted, multiple newspaper buys in a streamlined and often more cost-effective manner.

In less than a year, SPIN has generated more than $3 million in revenues, said Michael McNamara, network sales manager in Landon's Boston office.

Mr. McNamara said before the network was formalized, "We spoke to [newspaper] ad managers to determine who our targets were and what our objectives should be."

Based on that input, SPIN developed a dual mission: recapture retail companies that abandoned newspapers for other distribution channels and solidify relationships with newspaper ad buyers considering other vehicles. That mission has been successful.

Rich's Department Stores, Salem, Mass., switched from direct mail distribution of weekly fliers to preprinted supplements in SPIN newspapers 38 times a year. The retailer is spending about $1 million in those publications.

Mr. McNamara said Portland, Maine-based Shaw's Supermarkets had recently considered other vehicles for distributing its promotional fliers. But the veteran newspaper advertiser decided to run FSIs in SPIN papers every week, spending about $2 million on an annualized basis.

"We target people who are not [advertising] in the paper, but part of our creed ... is to make sure that major retailers don't leave the medium," Mr. McNamara said. "So in a short time, we've done both."

In addition to the Boston network, Landon now operates formal newspaper affiliations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as a number of ad hoc networks in greater Atlanta.

Landon Exec VP-Marketing Services Rod Keeney said that, with offices in 18 cities, starting networks in other markets seems likely.

"In view of our success in these four market areas," he said, "we anticipate there will be expansion into other regions in the future, depending on advertiser needs."

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