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Magazine publishers may be under more pressure than ever to negotiate ad rates as they seek hikes tied more to a change in the calendar than to increases in the cost of doing business.

Unlike past years, when rate increases have remained relatively uniform throughout the industry, next year's hikes will range from as low as 2% to as high as 8%.

That's largely because the industry faces no across-the-board increases in the cost of doing business, such as higher prices for paper or postage.

In some cases, the rate hikes are being tied to circulation increases, meaning there won't be a change in the cost per thousand.

Media buyers usually treat rate increases as added protection for magazines in the negotiation process. That's especially true if they believe the cost hikes are capricious.

"You wonder if rate increases are just being used as a negotiating tool," said Roberta Garfinkle, senior VP-director of print media at McCann Erickson Worldwide, New York. "Maybe they raise rates by 10% but don't really expect anyone to pay more than 3% to 5%. Few are really taking a circulation increase, so there seems to be very little reason to do it, other than that's what magazines do in January."

Several publishers, though, defended the rate increases, citing higher costs to acquire and retain subscribers and newsstand buyers.

"The main costs that are increasing are distribution- and circulation-related . . . It's harder and harder to reach a mass market," said Jason Klein, exec VP at Times Mirror Magazines. The publisher of such titles as Field & Stream and Outdoor Life plans to seek a 6% rate increase.

Below, a roundup of other leading publishing houses:

* Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing plans increases ranging from 3% to 8% for its magazines, which include Family Circle, McCall's and Parents.

* Time Inc., which has a decentralized structure, expects some titles to hold steady while others will put through rate increases as high as 6%, said Dave Long, president of media sales and marketing. People, for example, plans to increase page rates 4% to 5%. In Style will raise ad rates 16.8%, based mostly on a 15.4% boost in its rate base to 1.5 million.

* Hearst Magazines anticipates 4% to 5% increases for most of its titles, though some may be higher due to rate base increases, said Michael Clinton, corporate marketing officer. Cosmopolitan will raise its rate base 4.2% to 2.5 million, with a special 2.6 million rate base guaranteed for the January and August issues. Marie Claire will follow a similar model, raising its rate base 10.7% to 775,000 for 10 issues, but guaranteeing 825,000 for March and September. SmartMoney will climb 3.5% to 750,000. Ad rates will climb commensurately with those fatter rate bases.

* Hachette Filipacchi Magazines will see an average rate increase of 5%, said Chief Operating Officer John Fennell. Hachette publishes Car & Driver and Woman's Day.

* Rodale's titles will raise rates from 6% to 8%. "Both on the newsstand and the subscription side, costs are up," said John Griffin, president of the magazine division, which includes Men's Health and Prevention.

* At Reader's Digest Association, national rates for the digest-size flagship will go up 6%, but rates for the demographic editions will rise 8%, said Gregory Coleman, senior VP-U.S. magazines. Ad rate increases for the special interest group will be in the 6% range.

* Wenner Media will increase its rates 7%. "With titles such as Rolling Stone, a lot of the cost comes from trying to lure the best writers and photographers," said John Berg, senior VP-group publisher.

* Essence Communications anticipates raising rates anywhere from 5% to 8%, said CEO-Publisher Edward Lewis.

* At American Express Publishing Corp., ad rates will rise 4% for Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure. Departures and Travel & Leisure Golf will only raise rates commensurate with rate base increases.

* As previously reported (AA, Aug. 9), Conde Nast Publications is taking a modest 2% increase at most of its 17 magazines, which include and Vanity Fair and Vogue. Glamour's rates will go up 7%, but its rate base will rise 5% to 2.1

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