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Conde Nast Publications dropped a bomb on Mediamark Research Inc. late last week, telling MRI the researcher is being cut when its contract expires next year because of continuing dissatisfaction with survey results.

"We just fired MRI," said Conde Nast President-CEO Steven Florio. He estimated the publisher was doing $1 million a year in business with MRI.

"When it comes to measuring quality, upscale audiences, we believe they are totally ineffective," he said, citing frustration with MRI's methodology.

MRI Chairman-CEO Alan Tessier is scrambling to save the relationship. "Obviously, there is going to be a very intense dialogue with them over the remaining life of their contract," he said.

Although audience levels for some Conde Nast magazines improved-Glamour rose 4.5% to show 10 million adult women readers each month-those for several big company titles were down. Vanity Fair's adult audience dropped 9.2% to 4.3 million in the spring results compared to a year earlier. The drop occurred even though the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed paid circulation improved by 3.9% to 1,173,077.

Conde Nast's move marks the second flap to erupt recently involving MRI. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today are feuding with MRI over its decision to discard results that would have shown big audience gains for both based on a new measurement method (AA, March 25).

In an ad taking the form of an open letter in today's Advertising Age, the papers are jointly calling on agency media directors to factor the higher numbers into buying decisions.

"We want the media directors to be the judge," said Paul Atkinson, VP-advertising at The Wall Street Journal.

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