Runner's World increases rate base 12 years running

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The January 2008 issue of Runner's World will see the magazine undergo its twelfth rate base increase in as many years.

The new rate base will be 640,000 - a 23 percent jump since 2003, the year before a major redesign.

"We approach circulation from an organic growth standpoint," Andrew Hersam, VP, publishing director of Runner's World said. "The demand has to be there, flat-out. We don't use rate bases as a means to drive ad rates. We have a firm belief that a great ad vehicle is one that is demanded, and we command a significant premium for our magazine.

"Frankly, we could have gone a little bit bigger [with circulation] this year, but we decided 640,000 was the level we wanted to stay at, and continue to grow as organically as possible."

Newsstand sales through September for Runner's World have increased 7 percent since this time last year. Fifteen percent of the magazine's circulation comes from newsstand, with the other 85 percent comprised of subscription sales.

"It says a lot about the editorial product," Hersam proudly stated. "It's all about editorial excellence; it's not about flash, not about gimmicks, it's basic blocking and tackling. If you create a great editorial product - one that's ambitious in its storytelling, creative in its service, beautiful looking, with dynamic photography and well packaged - consumers want it. Since our redesign in 2004, that tenet has held true."

The magazine's biggest source of new subscriptions is not direct mail or special offer campaigns - it's the Rodale Events Series. Rodale, publisher of Runner's World, partners with 7,500 running events throughout the year. These events host 3.5 million runners across the country, and the Runner's World marketing team solicits these runners at the events.

"It's about as qualified a group as you can get," Hersam laughed. "They just crossed the finish line, so we know they're runners. If they sign up for the magazine at the race, we know they're interested."

Advertising sales have also been strong for the fitness magazine. This month's issue held 79.67 ad pages, which raked in $7.2 million in revenue. From January to October of this year, Runner's World has recorded $59.9 million in ad revenue with 615 pages of ads. Ad revenue at Runner's World has seen increases of more than 10 percent every year for the past five years.

"The beauty of the opportunity for advertisers," explained Hersam, "is those people who are interested in health and wellness also tend to be young, affluent, very well educated and well traveled. And it's a natural selection process, so we don't have to target these people."

Runner's World boasts advertisers from every ad category, with the exception of alcohol and tobacco, which are prohibited by Rodale policy.

Rodale's other health-oriented titles have also been doing well with ad sales and circulation this year. Women's Health raised its rate base by 100,000 - to 850,000 - for its July/August issue, and Men's Health posted a 30.9 percent increase in ad page revenue for the first half of this year.

"People are waking up to the fact that they need to take control of their lives, and one area they can absolutely control beyond anything else is their health and fitness," said Hersam of health magazines' success. "They look to us to help guide them in that pursuit.

"It's funny - there's this old adage, æI only run if someone is chasing me,' but now people realize that the thing that's chasing them is obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and their needs for their own time. In regards to running, it's the best sport, the best activity you can do to be healthy and lose weight. And the sport of running is becoming much more fun with iPods and rock æn' roll marathons."

Runner's World is planning a small re-design in early 2008, more to maintain an edge than to change the formula that is working for them. In ABC reports, the magazine continues to over-deliver on its rate base, so Hersam guarantees a thirteenth consecutive increase next year.

The magazine is also expanding its Web presence at www.runnersworld.com. A Runner's World online community, where people can blog and share run tips, is slated to launch within the next six months. The site already hosts more than 1 million unique viewers each month.

"I think great magazines have a tremendous future," Hersam postulated. "I think that, particularly where electronic media is concerned, we're seeing people who may be online all day but using it for work. That's presenting a tremendous advantage to print medium, where people want that tactile reading experience. You don't read online, you don't learn online - you learn through print, and I don't care how old you are that's something that's innate,"áhe said.

"I think what's happening is just like what happened with cable. People's media selection is really narrowing, and a strong brand is a strong preemptive strike in the minds of consumers. It is really all about personalization - something you're really interested in, and that you care about."

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