Monday, January 7, 2013

Advertising: Psychology Today in Transition by Philip H. Dougherty

New York Times, March 8, 1988

Owen Lipstein and T. George Harris, the founders and owners of American Health magazine, said yesterday that they had agreed to acquire 90 percent of Psychology Today from the American Psychological Association.

For Mr. Harris, the magazine held a special attraction. He had become its editor at the end of its first year, serving in that position from 1968 to 1976, and he has remained close to the editors since leaving. 

Mr. Lipstein is determined not to divulge the price of the 21-year-old magazine, but he acknowledged that it would be $5 million to $10 million. Woody Katsoff will continue as publisher.

The psychological association has been losing money on the publication — up to $1.5 million last year, according to rumors. But the two buyers say that its circulation is strong and that advertising is the area that needs strengthening.

Mr. Lipstein, 36 years old, says one of his strengths is an ability to attract advertisers. He has gained a reputation, he says, for "being good at telling marketers why magazines are important to them." He and Mr. Harris, 63, are also co-owners of American Health, but Mr. Lipstein is the sole owner of Mother Earth News.

The two men are convinced that all three publications attract the same kind of "baby boomer" readership, so they plan to develop a "Boomer Network," which would give advertisers a discount for inclusion in all three magazines and in their Wall Media, which is poster advertising displayed at 1200 health clubs.

The Boomer Network will be offering an audience of 15 million. These are people "in their 30's, affluent and educated, who want to learn how to be competent," Mr. Harris said. He fore-sees a trend toward "self-enhancement."

Seventy-five percent of Psychology Today's readers, like American Health's, are women.

Psychology Today was bought by Ziff-Davis in 1973 and acquired by the psychology association three years ago. In 1977, the magazine reached its peak in advertising, with 650 or more ad pages, and in circulation, with 1.2 million readers, Mr. Harris said.

In June 1982, Ziff-Davis cut the circulation rate base to 850,000. That is its current level, Mr. Lipstein said, but the magazine is actually delivering 960,000.

As for advertising pages, the Publishers Information Bureau estimated that the magazine carried 337 last year, with estimated revenues of $6.8 million, virtually unchanged from 1986.

"We're not going to make it what it was," Mr. Lipstein said. "It will have to be different. The world has changed."

 Always the editor, Mr. Harris has a number of plans for the magazine, including some new departments.

And Mr. Lipstein has some thoughts as well. "Say psychology," he said, "and eyes glass over. Yet everything psychology deals with is where everybody lives. We can make the magazine hipper and more fun."

American Health carried 703 ad pages last year, up from 612 in 1986, while revenues were estimated by the publishers' bureau at $11.1 million, up 23 percent from $9 million the previous year.

The report from Mother Earth News is that for the first two months of 1988 it had 160 ad pages, up from 119 in the period a year ago.

The American Psychological Association announced last month that it hoped to sell the magazine. The other bidders are understood to have been Family Media and Michael Markowitz, a Chicago psychologist.