National papers register ad boom

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The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, faced with sluggish growth, are turning to major marketing efforts to capture both readers and national advertising.

The campaigns come in the midst of circulation gains and an advertising boom for the nation's two largest dailies--USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Through October, both The New York Times and the L.A. Times saw only single-digit growth in national advertising, up 4.2% and 6%, respectively.


That lags the double-digit growth of their national rivals.

"The national dailies are having a great moment," said Tom Curley, president-publisher of USA Today, where ad pages jumped 27% through October to 3,960.

Since the spring, USA Today has had a waiting list of color advertisers. To help handle the demand, the paper in October and November has been adding a fifth or sixth section twice a week. "We expect to continue that demand into the first quarter," said Mr. Curley.

The Wall Street Journal ad pages are up 14.1% to 4,799.8 pages through October, paced by a 34% increase in financial advertising to 1,898 pages, according to VP-Advertising Paul Atkinson. This past March, the Journal began accepting color advertising for the first time.


In a bid to build its stature as the No. 3 national daily, The New York Times plans a $10 million TV, radio, direct mail and consumer/trade print campaign from Bozell Worldwide and its Bozell Direct unit, both New York, early next year.

"1997 will be our year to really step up our marketing efforts and focus in on national circulation," said William Pollak, exec VP-circulation.

Additionally, the Times has told analysts it's in the midst of a major editorial redesign that could involve adding color to its weekday front page and other sections.

The Times should be able to do daily color advertising and editorial as of third quarter of '97, when its new printing plant opens in College Point, N.Y.

At that time, it will also be able to expand the number of sections to up to eight daily; currently the metro and Northeast editions carry four sections while the national edition has three sections. The Northeast edition will be revised in January.

New York Times Co. President Janet Robinson said the changes and the ad campaigns are not targeted at any specific rivals. "We regard all media as our competition," she said.


Locked in a battle with some tough local rivals, the L.A. Times has a slightly different strategy.

"We're not a national newspaper, but we're the second largest market in the nation and about $150 million of our total $810 million in advertising will be from national advertisers this year," said Mark Wurzer, director of national advertising.

So far this year, the L.A. Times has spent $7 million for a multimedia campaign from DDB Needham Worldwide, Los Angeles.

Bernard Flanagan, VP-marketing of Journal parent Dow Jones & Co., said he is skeptical of the efforts by the New York and Los Angeles papers to broaden their readership and advertising base.

"They're not true national papers," he said. "They don't have the distribution."

The New York Times is taking measures to solve that. Unlike past subscription drives, this one is accompanied by a serious revision in how the paper reaches subscribers.

In 27 cities, independent firms that once delivered the Times have been jettisoned. Now the same people who deliver The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, The (Toronto) Globe & Mail and 23 other local papers also will hand deliver the Times under agreements hammered out over the past six months.

The Wall Street Journal is already preparing to defend its turf --especially subscriptions, which account for 60% of sales.

On Nov. 22, Journal management took its first look at direct-response TV spots from Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos, Boston. This is the agency's first effort for the Journal since winning the circulation/marketing portion of the account from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, two months ago.

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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