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Five months after suspending Omni as a monthly publication, General Media will be gambling that the magazine can make a comeback as a quarterly by hiking the cover price, slashing circulation and skipping costly subscription sales entirely.

The new edition hits Sept. 14 with a hefty 41% jump in cover price to $4.95, making Omni one of the most expensive magazines on the rack.

At the time the monthly was suspended in April, Omni had paid circulation of 725,816, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Under the new formula, which will rely entirely on single-copy sales, the company hopes to sell between 150,000 and 200,000 copies, said William Marlieb, president of the magazine group at General Media.

The paid subscription list of 600,000-plus names was sold to Disney Publishing's Discover.

Industry experts see the move as a shrewd gamble to revive a troubled title.

"They were spending a lot of money to maintain the rate base under the old formula," said Stuart Jordan, VP, Circulation Specialists Inc., Westport, Conn.

The rate base had been slashed twice in the past five years, from a peak of 900,000 five years ago to 700,000 at the end.

"A newsstand-only title has very little financial risk," Mr. Jordan said. "If it has a reasonable sell-through on newsstands, it will make money."

While most small-circulation quarterlies might be swallowed up in the fight for newsstand space, Mr. Jordan pointed out that Omni can count on added muscle from its sister title Penthouse, which sells close to a million copies on newsstands each month.

The new strategy will also lower the production costs in a time of sky high paper prices while diminishing the amount of money the title has to generate from ad sales to be profitable.

In the past, Omni has struggled for ad pages. Through April, the magazine had 230.4 ad pages, down 0.5% from the same period last year.

Comebacks are always difficult for magazines. But Mr. Marlieb insisted that "we've encountered no skepticism whatsoever. We did this in a very strategic manner, and it was always part of our plan."

The print version of Omni will tie into electronic siblings on America Online and on a World Wide Web site now under development, Mr. Marlieb said. Omni Online on America Online has several advertisers including AT&T and Dodge Neon. Online ad prices range from $3,000 to $20,000 per month.

Several joint online/print deals are in the works, though nobody has formally inked a contract. "We see this as being the future," said Omni Associate Publisher Corey Friedman.

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