Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Petersen to Unleash Sport; from Shortsighted Investment to Long-Term Publishing Venture

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Petersen to Unleash Sport; from Shortsighted Investment to Long-Term Publishing Venture

Article excerpt

Peterson to unleash Sport

Los Angeles -- Having struggled on shoestring budgets and bounced among four owners in the last eight years, Sport appears to have found a solid home in Petersen Publishing Co.

The magazine will now look to Petersen to beef up newsstand sales--currently just 15 percent of circulation--and to improve ad sales through the company's male-oriented network. More editorial, better graphics and special insert editions are also planned.

"It was pretty easy to see that the investment wasn't there [under the former owners]," says Peter Clancey, senior vice president/national ad director for Petersen. "It's going to be there now." Petersen paid Sport Magazine Associates between $8 million and $10 million for the 42-year-old title, according to a number of estimates.

The former owners were backed by Founders Equity Inc., a limited partnership of some 70 investors with no publishing background, who bought into the group for tax purposes, says Sport editor Neil Cohen. Upon purchase in 1986, focus quickly shifted to financial results--cutting debt loads and showing investors a return. "We had a budget that called for us to show an operating profit right away," says Cohen.

Meeting that budget precluded investments in building the magazine's subscriber list or ad base. Little was spent on direct mail and promotion: One 1987 package, the first in some time, pulled greater than a 5 percent return, but no funds were available for further mailings.

Neither was money available to maintain editorial pages above a minimum ad/edit ratio. With ad pages averaging about 40 per issue, the magazine ran little more than 80 pages total.

Sport has maintained its 900,000 circulation base, but Cohen attributes that to tremendous reader loyalty augmented by an inflated number of expensive subscriptions. In fact, one Sport bidder shied away from pursuing the magazine too aggressively because subscription liabilities were so "horrendous. …

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