Going for national dollars: Regional titles form ad network

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Ninety city and regional magazines have banded together to go after the national ad dollars they can't easily attract on their own.

The consortium gives titles such as Nashville Lifestyles and Palm Springs Life a theoretical ground on which to compete with big-name glossies for blue-chip national ads. It also offers advertisers the ability to slice and dice among the markets the network covers to customize buys.

In creating the City and Regional Magazine Network, the publishers are following in the footsteps of the Newspaper Association of America, which formed the National Newspaper Network in 1994.

"It takes a single insertion order, and [clients] get a single invoice," said Jim Fitzpatrick, CEO and publisher of San Diego magazine and a key player behind the initiative.

Network sales will be handled by reps for the individual magazines. The Jones Agency, a Palm Springs advertising shop, will coordinate logistics of the deals, said Mr. Fitzpatrick. Jones Agency President Milt Jones also owns one of the participating magazines, Palm Springs Life.

There is one big hole in the network. Primedia's weekly New York magazine declined to join its smaller siblings. Larry Burstein, publisher of New York, said he might be open to working with the network on an informal basis, but noted that his title already attracts national marketers.

big names

Other big books such as Emmis Communications' Los Angeles and Texas Monthly, and Tribune Co.'s Chicago, are among the titles that have signed on. Participating magazines have a combined circulation of 18.2 million. A full-network buy would cost $395,000 for a color page.

One media buyer said the network could be a factor in persuading some advertisers to buy the regional and city titles. "Strategy is going to take precedence over convenience every day," said Charles Valan, VP-strategic print services at Universal McCann, New York. "But if you're talking about a price advantage and you're on the fence, it can only serve as an advantage as they try to garner national ad dollars."

The number of entrepreneurs operating in the space was a factor in why it took several years to pull the network together. Emmis, with six regional titles, is the biggest player.

Bolstering the regionals' national aspirations, said project consultant Charles Rodin, are attractive demographics. The network magazines claim a combined audience that's 60% female with a median income of $117,000.

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