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As the horses come thundering around the bend to end the third quarter, the entire consumer magazine industry appears headed to break 1994's record of 180,588.6 ad pages.

For the first nine months, consumer ad pages tracked by Publishers Information Bureau totaled 147,521.05, up 6.5% from a year earlier.

The growth in the top 10 categories is spurred by No. 6 food-up a sizzling 27.1% to 5,739.6 for the first three quarters. At No. 5 is computer advertising, jumping 50% in pages in September and up 24.4% to 12,007.24 year to date.

Top ad category automotive is now up 9.8% for the year, to 16,281.51 and that's before the Ford Taurus campaign began running in October. The three surging categories more than offset disappointments, such as No. 8 drugs and remedies, off 7.8% with 5,629.83 pages and No. 3 toiletries and cosmetics, off 5.2% with 10,218.98.

The single biggest event so far has been the introduction of Windows '95 by Microsoft Corp. The millions that Microsoft pumped into print was supported by a host of other high tech vendors.

"The whole market was waiting for Microsoft to announce Windows '95," said Greg Jarboe, director of public relations for Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., who said that will make for a "Jekyll and Hyde year" for most tech advertising.

Though it's down 3.6% with 4,574.8 ad pages, Ziff-Davis' is still way ahead as the expected winner of the overall ad page crown, a prize it was almost certain to win once it began being tracked by PIB this year. So far PC Magazine has a whopping 57.6% more pages than its closest rival, Forbes, even though PC Magazine failed in its bid to land auto ads.

Other computer titles with a more consumer-oriented bent-such as Computer Life and Family PC-are enjoying strong years as they complete their first full year of publishing.

Elsewhere, jockeying for position is intense in some of the hard fought subcategories.

Among newsweeklies, Time continues to insist that the most important factor is real revenue per page rather than total pages. This time the argument carries more weight since the 1,524.5 ad tally (up 6.5%) places it ahead of Newsweek (up 13.5%) and U.S. News & World Report (down 4%).

Forbes, the ad page leader for the past three years, is still hot (up 11.4%), though a distant second.

And in a what has to now be considered a genuine return to the hot magazine elites, Vanity Fair is up 29.8%. On the flip side, personal finance magazines are cooling off. For example, Money, is up just 1.6%, with 874.2 pages, while Worth is up 4.9%, at 465.3 pages, and Individual Investor is down 6.5%., with 508.4.

Among the Seven Sisters, Better Homes & Gardens, the largest circulation title in the bunch, is also enjoying the strongest surge-up 13.5% through September.

"It was across the boards: food, automotive, health and beauty aids," said Group Publisher Jerry Kaplan.

Woman's Day still clings to first in the category with a 2.2% gain.

"We'll win the ad page [category] crown again for the year," predicted John Fennell, VP-publisher. The two Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing sisters, McCall's and Family Circle, continue to take a pasting in the marketplace, dropping 16.3% and 16.2%.

In the red hot epicurean category, Cooking Light rose 33.8% to 529.9 ad pages-marking the group's biggest percentage gain while top ad producer Gourmet has cooked up a 3.8% ad page gain to 761.1.

Among the Sunday magazines, Parade remains far and away the revenue leader at $337.7 million in ad revenues and is up 2.2% year to date in ad 517.2 pages is down 4%, with revenues up 7.4% to $170.7 million.

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