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Consumer magazines experienced their best year ever in 1994, shattering the ad page record established five years earlier.

Last year's tally was 180,588 pages with an estimated $8.5 billion in revenues, up 5.3% and 10.9%, respectively, compared with a year ago, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

It was no surprise the auto buff books reaped some of the biggest gains-paced by Road & Track's 34.7% surge and Automobile Magazine's 31.1% gain.

"It doesn't look like anybody is easing up," said Terry Russell, group publisher of K-III Communications Corp.'s Automobile. "Car sales last year were terrific and the ad pages are off to a strong start this year."

Several hot magazines from '93 continued to sizzle in '94: SmartMoney gained a whopping 86.3% in ad pages and Men's Health jumped 55.5%. Men's Health also was cited by Capell's Circulation Report as No. 1 in circulation gains for 1994.

On the downside, the newsstand drawing power of Conde Nast Publications' once-hot Vanity Fair wasn't reflected in ad pages, which declined 13% for the year despite a 12% gain for December.

Mademoiselle was another troubled title at Conde Nast, with gains in single-copy sales not yet helping ad pages. Pages tumbled 20.3% in December, finishing the year with a 24.7% slide. That sent the monthly skidding below the magical 1,000 page barrier-its worst showing in more than a decade.

At Hearst Corp., Esquire's newsstand gains under Editor in Chief Ed Kosner didn't translate into more ad pages. The magazine finished 1994 down 14.8% in pages, and Publisher Alan Stiles left in mid-January.

In a year of mixed results in the tightly fought Seven Sisters category, Woman's Day emerged as the leader but had to weather a December dive of 13.7%. For 1994, it was up 3.9%.

Food was one of three category groups to decline for the year, dropping 2% in ad pages and hurting the Seven Sisters in particular. The only other categorywide declines were: cosmetics, down 4.9%, and apparel and footwear, down 0.7%.

That twin hit meant many fashion/beauty books didn't experience the general euphoria most consumer magazines did in '94.

Seven of the top 10 categories were up in pages, paced by the 14.6% gain of No. 1 automotive and the 23.9% gain of No. 10 cigarettes-a category that made a surprise return to the top 10 after dropping to No. 12 in 1993.

As expected, for the third year in a row, Forbes was crowned the overall winner of the PIB ad page crown with 4,153.7 ad pages.

Among national Sunday magazines, USA Weekend's 730.5 ad pages topped Parade's 716.4 ad pages, as both exhibited slow growth year-to-year. Parade was flat with a 0.2% gain to take 105 in the PIB rankings; USA Weekend was up 2.6% to place 101. Parade still boasts a commanding lead in circulation and PIB ad revenue, and tops even People and TV Guide in the latter category.

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