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Magazine Publishers Flunking Out at Colleges

Associated Press

When the publication Newsweek on Campus was first sent to college nearly six years ago, its owners hoped students would read it and later graduate to its parent, Newsweek.

Not enough students made the step up, however, and Newsweek recently announced that Newsweek on Campus will make its final appearance this fall.

It won’t be the only dropout among college magazines, although their reasons for calling it quits vary.

McGraw-Hill announced that it was suspending publication of the 5-year-old Business Week Careers magazine, citing lagging advertising support for campus publications.

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Explosion of Options

And Whittle Communications, a media concern based in Knoxville, Tenn., published the final issue of its 17-year-old Campus Voice magazine in March, saying it had become too hard to stand out from the crowd of college magazines.

Media analysts say a shakeout was inevitable as the number of magazines, newspapers, billboards, sampling programs and other media options aimed at college students mushroomed in the mid-1980s.

Publishers felt advertisers would salivate at the chance to reach an audience numbering about 12 million with estimated purchasing power of about $30 billion a year, malleable brand loyalties and promising earnings prospects.

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The audience remains attractive for some advertisers, such as those in automotives, electronics, beverages and snack foods, but their ad budgets have limits, said Leo Scullin, director of print media for the advertising agency Young & Rubicam.

“With a preponderance of media vehicles available, the advertiser made his choices,” Scullin said. He said they tended to pick magazines with “pizazz and excitement” because there was a better chance students would look at them.

Randy Achee, president of Alan Weston Communications Inc., a Burbank-based company that publishes three magazines targeted at segments of the college audience, estimated national advertisers spend about $35 million a year specifically to reach college students.

That figure includes only product and service advertising, not recruitment advertising or local and regional ad spending, which Achee said could push total spending toward $100 million a year.

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Achee said his company has survived the shakeout by focusing on narrow segments of the college market and using the mail instead of simply leaving the magazines at high-traffic spots on campus.

Single-Advertiser Issues

Weston’s Moving Up magazine is sent to about 500,000 men who are college juniors, seniors or graduate students; College Woman goes to about 700,000 women who are college students and College Musician goes to 100,000 college music students through their teachers.

Even those who are closing magazines say the audience remains attractive.

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Newsweek intends to promote its main magazine more aggressively on campus. McGraw-Hill plans to offer advertisers a chance to be the only sponsor of special editions of Business Week Careers. Whittle plans multipanel wallboards for campus that will carry news, features, job information and advertising.

Gerard Smith, publisher of Newsweek, said Newsweek on Campus was never intended to be a major profit contributor. It was launched in September, 1982, as “a way of introducing college students to Newsweek’s style of reporting and editing,” he said.

The strategy didn’t work. Although Newsweek on Campus circulation reached 1.3 million this year, Smith said there was insufficient indication that readers later subscribed to Newsweek and some evidence that the number of students reading Newsweek itself had dipped. It appeared six times a year, and its last issue will be the back-to-school edition this fall.

Time Tries New Services

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Smith said Newsweek on Campus was at a disadvantage in selling ad space because some competitors who publish magazines also offered sampling programs and other promotions aimed at college students. Weston, for instance, offers sampling, direct mail and college newspaper ad placement services, a movie guide and campus promotions as well as magazines.

Time plans to continue publishing its Student Life college magazine twice a year but is launching other services to reach college students. Student Life publisher Jonathan Bulkeley said marketers will have a chance to advertise in Student Life, distribute a sample of their products through college bookstores assembled by Time and give away coupons through posters on campus or by direct mail.

“Stand-alone magazines have a tough time being successful in this market,” he said. “Advertisers are interested in more than just print.”


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