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Conde Nast Publications' Women's Sports & Fitness wants ad agency media buyers to know that, yes, it does have readers. Lots of them.

Actually, Women's Sports & Fitness' numbers give it a bragging point: The title passed the 500,000 circulation mark, a benchmark many advertisers use before they consider adding a neophyte magazine to their media plan.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations' initial audit statement for the every-other-monthly reports total average circulation of 500,815, a 43% bonus over its 350,000 rate base. The statement is for the four-month period of July through October 1998.

"Circulation is the shadow that's been hanging over our heads," said Publisher Suzanne Grimes. "Finally, we have something for the media buyers."

As for the half-million mark, "That's very important, especially for a niche, special-interest publication," said a New York-based agency media director who asked for anonymity.


The entire category is percolating again, with Sports Illustrated re-entering this year with its four-issue test of Sports Illustrated for Women. In 1997, SI produced two test issues of the women's title, but despite strong response from readers sat out 1998.

Another four issues are planned for 2000, said Associate Publishing Director Ann Duffy.

For '99, Sports Illustrated for Women is guaranteeing a rate base of 250,000.

The Conde Nast sports magazine originally was launched in October 1997 as a monthly bearing the name Conde Nast Sports for Women. By April 1998, Conde Nast announced it was buying rival Women's Sports & Fitness, the title founded in the 1970s by tennis pro Billie Jean King.

Conde Nast added 151,013 subscriptions from that magazine to its subscription file. In June, it began publishing under the acquired property's name and announced it was scaling back from monthly to six times a year. The audit statement reports on the first two issues following the change in name and frequency.

"We had a little trouble with the launch . . . but since then all signs have been very encouraging," said Conde Nast President-CEO Steven T. Florio.

The July/August 1998 issue brought other changes, including a new art director, Holland Utley, and an upgrade in paper quality.


The biggest benefit derived from the name change was better newsstand placement. When it was Conde Nast Sports for Women, retailers tended to place the magazine alongside Sports Illustrated and ESPN. But under the Women's Sports & Fitness title, the magazine has been moved to the women's section.

That helped boost newsstand sales to 115,128 and 119,971 for the July/August and September/October issues, Ms. Grimes said.

In January, its rate base was increased to 475,000 from 350,000.

Conde Nast executives are hoping to increase both frequency and rate base next

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