New Mags on the Block: Can Kids' Versions of Grown-Up Titles Be Used to Develop Home-Grown Future Subscribers?

By Tulin, Ellen | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, November 1, 1990 | Go to article overview
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New Mags on the Block: Can Kids' Versions of Grown-Up Titles Be Used to Develop Home-Grown Future Subscribers?


Tulin, Ellen, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


New mags on the block

NEW YORK CITY--Zillions. National Geographic World. Sports Illustrated for Kids. What do these titles have in common? All three children's magazines are offspring of venerable grown-ups' titles. And more are in gestation.

Currently on the drawing boards at top publishing companies are at least three new magazines aimed at the Bart Simpson set. With the success of the nearly two-year-old Sports Illustrated for Kids, Time Inc. Magazine Co. is considering spin-offs of Time and Fortune. Times Mirror Magazines will stalk junior outdoorsmen with Field & Stream Jr., a separate, digest-size, pull-out special section in the November issue of Field & Stream. John Mack Carter at Hearst is said to be toying with the idea of a kids' spin-off of Good Housekeeping, to make its debut in mid to late 1991.

What's behind the sudden rush to grab younger audiences? At Time, they see the magazines first and foremost as a kind of petri dish for growing future subscribers. "The Time Inc. titles are all mature. They're not going to grow anymore. The only thing that's left is to franchise thei name," says one industry source. "The reason we launched Sports Illustrated for Kids is that we wanted to protect the long-term franchise," confirms publisher Ann Moore, who doubles as associate publisher of Sports Illustrated.

Right now, all Time knows is that the magazine, with its colorful graphics, posters and stories of sports heroes, is striking a chord with kids--who, according to research, are saving their back issues, reading the current ones seven times or more and tearing out insert cards to give to their friends. Obviously, the company won't know if it's succeeded in culturing big SI subscribers until the little SI for Kids subscribers grow up.

In the meantime, it appears Time will have to settle for making a profit within three years of launch.

Already, the magazine is doing well in both advertising and circulation. Advertisers, who sign up for a package program, pay $295,000 per year, which entitles them to 10 ad pages, affiliation with SI for Kids' literacy program, and value-added and promotional programs. The magazine has already nearly met its goal of signing up 36 advertisers for 1991; it carries a maximum of 360 ad pages per year.

Most of the current circulation of 802,600--up from 678,578 at the end of 1989, its launch year--comes from subscriptions (basic price: $17.95); an additional 250,000 copies are distributed to high-risk students as part of the literacy program.

While Moore declines to release figures, she says that SI for Kids is on budget, has a positive cashflow, and is almost breaking even. "I would be very upset if we weren't making a profit by 1992," she adds.

But the hidden weapon here is merchandising. "What's going to push us into profitability is how fast the line extensions are heating up," Moore reveals. Sports Illustrated for Kids children's wear is sold at Sears, Roebuck & Company.

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