Magazine ad page leaders (chart) AUTOMOTIVE DRIVES APRIL REVENUE BOOST

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Consumer magazines got a kick-start in the second quarter from an acceleration in ad spending by the automotive category.

As a result, April 1994 marked the highest April increase for pages and ad revenue in a decade.

Total ad revenue for the 180 magazines tracked by Publishers Information Bureau hit $772.4 million, up 14% from April 1993. Ad pages for the month rose to 16,379.2, an 8.3% increase from the same month a year ago.

After a marginally improved first quarter, year-to-date ad pages are now up a healthy 3.2%.

"When your largest category-automotive-finally kicks in, it has a major impact on everything else," said James R. Guthrie, exec VP-marketing development at Magazine Publishers of America.

Auto ad revenue jumped 29.1% in April to $129.8 million.

Mr. Guthrie said the boom is being fueled by domestic cars and domestic sport-utility vehicles.

But consumer publishers had other reasons to cheer, with nine of the top 10 ad categories showing increases. Foods and food products was the only category to show a decline in April.

Year-to-date, eight of the top 10 categories are showing an increase, with only food and apparel/footwear down.

Drugs and remedies had the largest revenue growth rate among the top 10, rising 52.2%.

"The boomers are beginning to get a sense of their own mortality," Mr. Guthrie said, noting that vitamins and prescription drug advertising fueled most of the gain.

In the fiercely competitive category of the Big 3 business titles, the overall ad upsurge has made for an extremely tight race among Forbes, Fortune and Business Week.

Year-to-date, category leader Forbes is flat with 1,029.7 pages. Business Week, after some churn in the ad sales staff last year, seems to have found its stride under new Publisher David Ferm. Through April, the title is up 11.4% at 1,017.7 ad pages and is breathing down the neck of Forbes.

"I think the category will do fine if the Federal Reserve and the administration don't screw us up," said Forbes President-CEO Malcolm S. Forbes Jr., who's not making any bold predictions about a "three-peat" for the every-other-weekly in terms of the PIB ad page crown.

Fortune has also had changes at the top with the sudden departure earlier this year of longtime Publisher Jim Hayes.

Stuart Arnold, after first being demoted in a companywide shake-up last September, stepped up to the publisher spot, right below new Group Publisher Michael Pepe.

The internal maneuvers don't seem to have slowed Fortune down, however. The every-other-weekly is up 9.4% in ad pages through April, to 753.62.

Unlike most other consumer categories, in the business sector, high tech and computer ads are actually more important than automotive.

Across all magazines, computers and office equipment are up 29.6% in revenue this year.

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