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Food advertisers opened a horn of plenty in the first half of the year, enabling consumer magazines to feast on a 22.8% gain in ad pages from that category.

Combined with robust gains in two other categories-computers up 19.4% to 7,949 and automotive up 12.5% to 12,120-the consumer magazine industry soared to the best percentage gain for the half in the past 11 years, up 6.7%.

Leading the pack was Ziff-Davis' PC Magazine, in its rookie year of being tracked by PIB had 3,095 ad pages. Last year's ad crown king, Forbes, was up 10.6% but now finds itself in second place.

The food bounty (up 22.8% to 3,832) contributed to a bumper crop of ads for special interest titles such as Cooking Light, up 40.7%, and Eating Well, up 52.4%. Hotter still was Martha Stewart Living, up 54.9%.

The food category growth also figured in gains by Better Homes & Gardens, the largest of the women's service magazines, which increased its pages 8.5%.

"Our food business was up 35%," said Jerry Kaplan, senior VP-group publisher of Better Homes.

The bounty did not lift all titles in the Seven Sisters field, however. The redesigned McCall's dropped 15.5%, while sister title Family Circle fell 17.2%.

After two strong years, TV Guide is up 5.4% this year. "It's been across the board, but if we had to single out one category, it's drugs/remedies," said Ad Director Susan Grimes. That bucks the industry trend; overall, that category dropped 9% to 3,896 in the first half compared with a year ago, the steepest drop in the top 10 categories.

The once-hot personal investment field appears to have cooled, due to early-year trouble in mutual funds and a drop in financial services advertising. SmartMoney has returned to earth with a 9.4% gain in ad pages, while Worth dropped 3% and category leader Money was flat.

In other hard-fought categories, Time, thanks largely to an extra, single-sponsor issue from AT&T on cyberspace, remains in front in its perennial showdown with Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.

While travel/resort advertising overall was nearly flat (up 1.6% to 6,553), Conde Nast Traveler defied the trend with a 14.8% advance in pages, which meant it has finally pulled ahead of archrival Travel & Leisure, up only 1.7%. "We're riding a rocket," said Conde Nast Traveler Publisher Richard Beckman. "Fashion, automotive and luxury goods are my strongest growth categories."

Industrywide, cosmetics fell 2% to 7,201 pages but apparel was up 9.4% to 7,686 and jewelry was up 16.4% to 1,958.

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