Newsweek's Magic Numbers-1965


By Joe Werner


   Editorial vitality of Newsweek in the 1960s and afterward mattered a lot.  But another huge thing happened, in1965, that also powered Newsweek's rise to good ad sales fortunes.

   This was publication that year of the WR Simmons Associates report on total readership of magazines.

  Before that report, from the 1920's onward, the only data available measured paid circulation, with one primary reader the assumed audience per subscription or newsstand sale.

   Big Deal: Bill Simmons came up with stable data measuring total readership of each issue.  Almost overnight his numbers became recognized by the magazine and advertising industry as

indicating the real wallop of a magazine, hence the real cost to the advertiser per each reader reached. This was a huge improvement for the cost analysis for ad campaigns by ad agencies and advertisers.

   In less than two years, ad pages in Newsweek jumped into the lead of the newsweekly field. The New Yorker, already a pet medium of high-end promotion, also showed similar gains. Sports Illustrated actually was saved by these "Simmons Numbers."  SI had cost Time Inc. an admitted $20 million in losses. But its Simmons total audience readership showed it to be a much cheaper and better way to reach readers than previously thought.

 The bottom line for newsmagazines in the Simmons stuff was this:

   Clear Win: Our bete noir, Time showed roughly 4 readers per copy sold; US News and World Report showed only about 3 readers per copy; but Newsweek’s pass along and waiting

room readership showed an exposure of about 6.5 readers per copy.  Newsweek’s 60% greater readership per individual copy, compared with Time, boosted our de facto total readership into Time’s ballpark.  Our price per advertising  page purchased by advertisers was lower because Newsweek, with fewer copies to print and mail, had lower costs of production than Time.

   Our ad staff ran wild using Simmons' numbers.  The Simmons data remained stable and credible over the years and for us produced great ad sales.

 Liquor, automotive, corporate, insurance and toiletries loved the numbers, seeing an improved way to make their campaigns look good to their organizations' top management.


Joe Werner joined Newsweek ad sales in New York in 1975. He was sent to run Washington ad sales in 1983, and he retired there in 1995.