Mag Spotlight: Runner's World

Autumn is all about falling leaves, pumpkins, and playoff baseball. It's also marathon season. The country's largest was held in Chicago earlier this month, and dozens of others will be run over a period of several weeks in cities like Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Philadelphia. The so-called Super Bowl of the sport, the New York Marathon, will take place on Nov. 7.

According to the folks at Runner's World, it's official--The United States is experiencing its second major running boom (the first taking place during the 1970's bad-shorts-jogging craze).

"Running numbers at an all-time high," said publisher Andy Hersam, who says that over 26 million people run at least 15 miles per week.

Consequently, Runner's World is enjoying a boom of its own. Ad pages are up 13 percent through September of this year after double-digit gains in 2003. A redesign last April has attracted new readers, and the rate base for this once niche title is headed to 600,000 as of January 1.



What's driving this second running boom? First and foremost, a new generation of women--benefiting from Title IX legislation, which leveled the playing field in scholastic sports--is thriving as athletes in high school and college. After they graduate, many turn to running as an outlet for their previous training regimens and competitive drive.

"Two years ago, for the first time we saw more women under 30 than men running marathons." said Editor in Chief David Willey. "That isn't changing."

Add to that trend the fact that Americans as a whole are increasingly fitness-obsessed. Plus, the sport of running has become far more social, with races morphing into festivals.

Runner's World has adjusted to this new populism. "The old version of the magazine was like a secret handshake," said Hersam. "There were just endless tips on how to improve your 10K time."

After the redesign last April, "we better defined what's going on in the sport," said Wiley, who was hired recently from Men's Journal. "We want to have the magazine feel like a home for as many runners as possible."

Dave said that he has received letters from some long-time subscribers who aren't happy, but newsstand sales are up 12 percent in 2004, which "suggests a whole lot of new people are reading."

The key has been to "bridge serious runners and not-so-serious runners," by providing both service and storytelling. "Our service is better than ever," Willey said. "But we also want to have 5,000- to 6,000-word stories that are as good as you'll find in Sports Illustrated and Esquire".

The demographics of this growing title are certainly advertiser-friendly, including a close-to-even male-female split, a median age of 36, a high average income, and of course, an active audience. Besides tons of shoe and running gear advertisers, Runner's World has increased its non-endemic advertising at a high rate, landing financial service brands like TIAA-CREF.

The magazine can also deliver a huge audience through its event programs, which Hersam says provide advertisers access to "the largest race program on the planet."

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