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The magazine industry's 1995 ad page race ended with a new winner, PC Magazine, a three-peat for Woman's Day among the fiercely competitive Seven Sisters and Time back on the newsmagazine throne after a three-year absence.

These are among the expected results when Publishers Information Bureau releases full-year results this week. PIB tracked Ziff-Davis Publishing Co.'s PC Magazine for the first time in 1995, and the high-tech title's performance dramatically ends Forbes' three-year run wearing the ad page crown, despite a record year for the business magazine.

PC Magazine, with 6,314 ad pages for the year, built a commanding lead early and then competed solely against its own record, far ahead of the pack. Its full-year total was 1,774 pages better than Forbes' 4,540. Even so, it was a relatively lackluster year for the PC title-published 22 times yearly-which finished only 41 pages ahead of '94, less than a 1% gain.

The record of both publishers dramatically underscores the importance of high-tech advertising to consumer magazines.

Forbes saw more than a 70% increase in computer software advertising this year to help it remain atop the consumer business magazine category, up nearly 10% in total ad pages from last year.

Part of PC Magazine's reason for jumping into the PIB tabulations is that it was increasingly fighting with the more general consumer business books for high-tech ads. Its ad picture for last year was heavily linked to the $300 million ad campaign by Microsoft Corp.

"The first half was pretty flat because a lot of people were waiting for Windows 95," said Dan Rosenweig, publisher of PC Magazine. Then things began to click, enabling Ziff-Davis' flagship to reverse its earlier ad woes.

"We had an unbelievable fourth quarter," Mr. Rosenweig said, with other tech vendors joining the Microsoft ad binge.

High tech also played a big role for Time in a dogfight with No. 2 Newsweek that wasn't decided until the final two issues of the year. Time Inc.'s flagship weekly said it finished with 2,384.07 ad pages, up 10.1%. Newsweek, published by the Washington Post Co., said it finished at 2,300, up 10.8% from a year ago. Both have spun off high-tech magazines in the past year, Time Digital and Newsweek's Virtual City, that helped their PIB numbers.

One additional help for Time was a special "Welcome to Cyberspace" issue that appeared last spring with AT&T as the sole sponsor with 28 ad pages.

"Technology-related business was very important to us, and our yearend double issue had 88 ad pages, a new record for that issue," said Richard Raskopf, associate publisher-advertising at Time.

Time was indifferent about its victory, however.

"We neither whine about it when we lose nor crow about when we win," said a Time spokesman.

Last year's category crown leader, U.S. News & World Report, tumbled to third after it lost Cruise Line Industries Association ads to Newsweek and didn't participate in any of the famous "milk mustache" ads from the $30 million print ad campaign for the National Milk Fluid Processor Promotion Board that helped its other two rivals.

Food advertising was a big help for the Seven Sisters, where Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Woman's Day finished with 1,707.5 ad pages, up less than 1% from a year ago, when it was also the category leader. The biggest surprise in the category was Meredith Corp.'s Better Homes & Gardens, which moved up to second place from fourth with a strong 9.1% gain to 1,656 ad pages. That gain came despite two months without ads from Procter & Gamble Co. in July and August as Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, took over all media buying in the Seven Sisters for P&G-much to the chagrin of all magazines in the category, which felt they were being treated as a commodity buy despite the titles' increasingly obvious differences.

BH&G might have scored an upset victory if it weren't for the paper crunch of '95. Several advertisers who ran big inserts in the December 1994 issue dropped those efforts in December '95 in the face of sky-high paper and printing costs.

In 1996, the two top magazines in the category are expected to reap a big windfall in pages from Philip Morris Cos.' tobacco unit and Kraft Foods due to the advertisers' ongoing dispute with Hearst Magazines, publisher of two of the Seven Sisters, Good Housekeeping and Redbook.

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