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The nation's largest magazines ended the last half of 1998 with a mixed bag of gains and losses in circulation, according to newly released Audit Bureau of Circulations figures.

Single-copy sales for some of the biggest books were off significantly, while soft response to sweepstakes mailings translated into subscription drops at other titles.

Overall, 24 of the top 35 magazines showed circulation declines for six months compared with the same period a year earlier.


No. 1 Modern Maturity, the subscription-only member magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons, saw its circulation rise a slight 0.7% to 20,534,357.

Reader's Digest was down 8.5% to 13,767,575. Although its rate base was 15 million for the period, advertisers were warned in advance that the monthly would not deliver. Last September, parent Reader's Digest Association announced it would cut the rate base for its flagship title by 17% in two stages.

As of January, the rate base is 13.3 million; in June, it will decline again to 12.5 million. Newsstand sales for the monthly in the second half were off 1.5% to 711,893.

TV Guide, which folded Total TV and The Cable Guide into its distribution in the second half of 1998, suffered a 23.5% drop in single-copy sales and saw total circulation drop 4.0% to 12,579,912. TV Guide also cut its rate base in the latter half of the year, from 13 million to 11.8 million.


National Geographic's second-half circulation dipped 4.4% to 8,612,102, despite a 9.1% increase in single-copy sales, which remain a small part of its total circulation. The monthly suffered a 4.7% decline in subscriptions, which numbered 8,420,977.

The newsweekly category, while down only slightly overall, was particularly hard hit on newsstands in the second half -- perhaps a reflection that consumers were fed up with the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Category leader Time was off 32.7% in newsstand sales, to 170,044 copies. Its total circulation was down 2.3% to 4,060,074. Newsweek was off 20.3% on newsstands, to 157,287, and flat in total circulation at 3,153,281. U.S. News & World Report, off 19% to 46,425 in newsstand sales, had a total circulation of 2,181,402, down 1.9% from the year before.


The performance of Meredith Corp. women's service magazines was flat. Better Homes & Gardens held steady at 7,613,249, and saw newsstand sales increase 7.9% to 402,333. Ladies' Home Journal's single-copy sales were down 3.7% to 562.500, but overall circulation was flat at 4,575,996.

Hearst Magazines' women's titles showed mixed results. Good Housekeeping was down 3.3% in total circulation, to 4,584,879, while single-copy sales fell 9.7% to 1,250,334. Redbook was up at the newsstand (plus 6% to 717,556), while total circulation was flat at 2,867,951.

At Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing, Family Circle was down 8% in single-copy sales to 1,979,306, while total circulation was off 2% to 5,004,902. McCall's newsstand was up 6.2% to 444,667, while total circulation was flat at 4,202,809.

Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Woman's Day, was off 7.2% to 1,915,000 at the newsstand; total circulation was down 4.9% to 4,242,097.

In the year's most interesting head-to-head competition, Hearst's Cosmopolitan and Conde Nast Publications' Glamour both registered gains in total circulation.

Cosmo, up 2.5% to 2,768,251, was flat at the newsstand at 1,960,522 copies. Glamour's total circulation rose 2.3% to 2,163,610, but its newsstand sales also

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