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While publishers of gay and lesbian regional newspapers tout their medium as the most cost-efficient way to reach people in their markets, some publications will have to change the window dressing to bring in mainstream national advertisers.

National advertising makes up about 10% of the estimated $41 million spent in local and regional gay publications, according to a survey by Mulryan/Nash, a New York advertising agency specializing in the gay market.

That's a similar percentage to what general-market dailies get from national advertisers, because they and their agencies favor glossy magazines and TV over newsprint, publishers say.

"There is a bias among Madison Avenue agencies. There is a distinct turning-up-the-nose at small, free newsprint publications. They like to go with the slick glossy stuff," says Don Michaels, publisher of The Washington Blade.

This is evident in the gay press by some recent, highly publicized targeted magazine ads for American Express Travelers Cheques and Banana Republic, and a TV commercial from the Ikea furniture chain featuring a gay couple.

But executives say the bias has a lot to do with the fact that many of the regional publications carry sexually explicit ads.

Michael Kazan, VP-account supervisor at ad agency Franklin Spier, New York, says his shop buys more advertising in the national glossies (for gay titles from book publisher clients) than in the regional press because of ad placement.

"Most magazines have a book section and that's where the ads end up. It's hard to monitor where the ads ends up in the newspapers; I do not like to end up near the phone sex ads," says Mr. Kazan.

"Also, there is a big variety in quality in the local gay press. Magazines are a lot slicker and sophisticated and pay a lot of attention to the publishing industry," he says.

Publishers admit there's more the regional gay and lesbian press can do to attract larger advertisers.

"Our industry is at its infancy," says Mark Segal publisher of The Philadelphia Gay News, a publication that claims a circulation of 15,000 that includes one-third paid.

One way it can grow is by upgrading the newspapers with a professional news staff, audited circulation and credible research, he says.

He says using verified circulation figures and a Simmons Market Research Bureau report has enabled his paper to attract Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Coca-Cola Co.

Limiting 900 telephone number ads in size and to a separate pullout section on pink paper helped build The Washington Blade, which has $2 million annual revenues mostly from classified and display advertising.

"For some time, we've been attracting advertising beyond the gay community locally," says Mr. Michaels. "At one time most of our [advertising] came from gay-owned businesses. Now it's about 50-50.

"We made a decision back in the late '70s to make it difficult for sex-oriented businesses to advertise with us," he adds. "We had trouble getting Mom and Pop business in Dupont Circle to advertise with us ... because they didn't want to be mixed in with the sexually oriented ads. We took a real financial bath for about six months, but we broadened our reach."

The country has about 64 gay news and lifestyle publications with a total circulation of 1.1 million and readership of 2.9 million, estimates Mulryan/Nash.

"For the same cost of two national magazine ads, an advertiser can go in 10 local publications and get far greater reach," claims Michael Gravois, president of Rivendell Marketing Co., an East Coast rep for gay newspapers and national magazines.

A page b&w ad in 10 National Gay Newspaper Guild publications costs $9,496 and $17,134 for color and reaches 229,250, Mr. Gravois says. A page b&w ad in Out costs $4,385 and $6,355 for color and reaches 85,000, for example, according to Jeff Roeske, assistant to the publisher at Out.

National advertising in the local and regional gay and lesbian press is limited primarily to alcohol, arts and entertainment and travel advertising.

Recent national advertisers include Arista records; "Angels in America," a Broadway play; Absolut, Stolichnaya and Tangueray vodkas; Bacardi Imports; BMG CD Club; Comedy Central; Dewar's scotch; Miller Brewing Co.; Polygram Records, St. Martins Press; and Sony Music. Viatical insurance companies also are strong national advertisers in the local and regional gay press.

"It's a good market for us," says Dominic Brand, VP-product group director for Schieffelin & Somerset Co.'s Dewar's. "We're looking for people who set trends and influence others ... We use newspapers for our image ads because we do quite a few [local] bar promotions."

"We feel the gay market is a niche market-one that is overlooked by a lot of" advertisers, says Marie Capozzi, senior media planner at Polygram Records.

Netherlands Board of Tourism ran its national print campaign in newspapers and magazines in 1992 and plans to repeat it in '95. "There's a great opportunity here given their high disposable income," says Cees Bosselaar, director-USA Netherlands Board of Tourism, New York, "and they often travel outside of the main season because they often don't have children and aren't tied to school season."

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