Publisher Scores With Circulation Boost

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SchoolSports Inc., publisher of a self-named sports magazine for teen-age boys, boosts its circulation from 400,000 copies to 650,000 next month.


Ninety percent of the added circulation goes to high schools in newly opened metro markets.


"We're playing to this increased demand for local high school sports news that doesn't make it to the back page of major metro newspapers," said Jim Kaufman, New York-based CEO of SchoolSports.


The magazine now adds Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Denver and Phoenix to its circulation coverage. It already is distributed to schools in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Published eight times a year, SchoolSports will reach 4,000 high schools of the 17,000 nationwide. It is shipped in boxes via United Parcel Service to athletic directors of schools requesting copies for distribution to students.


Issues are sent from September through June. The eighth issue has a truncated circulation of 200,000, sent to major sports summer camps.


In another brand extension, the publisher in October debuted a basketball magazine called High School Hoops in conjunction with The Sporting News. Its 100,000 circulation is split evenly between high school basketball tournaments and newsstands for sale through Jan. 14.


Online, SchoolSports has built a database of 125,000 kids and athletic directors. Access to its Web site is free currently, though a paid premium service component is planned. But no pronounced emphasis exists on that channel, except as part of an added value package to print advertisers.


Overall, 75 percent of SchoolSports' readers are male teens -- bucking a trend in magazines.


"Generally speaking," Kaufman said, "teen girls subscribe to a ton of magazines. Teen boys don't. Based on our research, one of the primary reading materials for a teen-age boy is the sports section of the newspaper."


If the production values are any indication, SchoolSports treats its teen readers with as much respect as do magazines reaching adult audiences. Its cover is glossy 80 lb. stock, and the inside pages are 40 lb. The book measures 9 by 11 inches.


Launched four years ago in the Greater Boston, New York and San Francisco areas, SchoolSports focuses on the interests and lifestyle of teens playing high school football, basketball and baseball. Each major metro area gets its own local edition and split cover featuring profiles on rising stars.


"Just as in the case with politics, high school sports is all local," Kaufman said.


SchoolSports regularly runs ads from Nike, New Balance, Gatorade, Gillette, Nintendo, U.S. Marines, Sony PlayStation and Reebok.


It competes for ad dollars and student attention with ESPN Magazine, Slam magazine and Sports Illustrated's SI Teen. Those titles are mostly newsstand and paid subscription. Kaufman claims SchoolSports is more appropriate for its target audience because Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine talk to older readers, often in their 30s.


"One hundred percent of our readership is between 14 and 18 years," he said. "So for marketers who are trying to reach this compelling demographic, we clearly prove the most efficient way to do so."


The Audit Bureau of Circulations audits SchoolSports.


Though SchoolSports lists $3.50 as its cover price, its distribution is free. Coaches and talent scouts outside of the circulation footprint can subscribe.


So, SchoolSports' paid circulation element is another 1,000 copies in addition to the regular free distribution of the local editions. And, again for a $3.50 cover price, it mails 1,000 copies of a national edition that pulls the best content and cover from disparate editions. This is a limited-edition product.


SchoolSports' progress illustrates teens' growing influence. According to Teenage Research Unlimited, teens spend an estimated $160 billion yearly. They also influence a larger amount of spending, a fact that plays a role in SchoolSports' format.


"From a marketer's perspective, these kids that we're putting on the covers are the influencers, just as the top advertisers are trying to brand top athletes," Kaufman said.


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