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Rate Bases Threatened As ABC Tightens Grip On Magazine Publishers

"Confusion and panic," was how one circulation executive characterized the reaction of publishers to news issuing Tuesday from the ABC.

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A circulation executive estimated that EBSCO sold at least 4 million subscriptions a year. "There are going to be some publishers who miss their rate base by quite a large number" because of the EBSCO and InFlight decisions, the executive predicted.

Which publishers? ABC officials would not say, but it's worth noting that ABC directors from Time Inc., Condé Nast, Hachette Filipacchi and National Geographic had to recuse themselves from the votes on EBSCO and InFlight because they stood to be affected by the outcome.

Time Inc.'s Wolfe acknowledged that his company had done business with both agents but said it was "a very small number in very small fashion." He said it was unclear whether any Time Inc. titles would end up owing refunds to advertisers as a result of the disqualifications, but said it would not be more than one or two, if any.

A spokeswoman for Advance Publications (which owns Condé Nast and Fairchild Publications, parent of WWD) said, "We are studying the announcements made today by ABC. We intend to make any appropriate adjustments to our circulation and marketing programs."

But even publishers that managed to keep clear of EBSCO and InFlight may find themselves facing similar questions before long. "There's more to come," said the executive with ties to ABC. "There are other agents out there that they are looking at very seriously for the same kinds of violations, about five or six of them."

A Snapshot of Sponsored Sales
Magazine
Sponsored Subscriptions
Total Circulation
Newsweek
296,000
3,126,000
Time
284,000
4,034,000
Playboy
191,000
3,051,000
Cosmogirl
133,000
1,380,000
Elle
130,000
1,079,000
Glamour
104,000
2,398,000
Allure
100,000
1,016,000
Rolling Stone
87,000
1,269,000
Stuff
85,000
1,313,000
All numbers are for the six-month period ended Dec. 31, 2004.
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