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Fact challenges Money for personal-finances readership

Will Fact thrive as well as Money?

Both are magazines aimed at helping readers manage their money better. Money is a highly successful publication of Time Inc.; Fact is the challenger.

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Earlier this spring, Arnold Bernhard & Co., publishers of Value Line Investment Survey, a well-known weekly market letter, and other financial reports put its 50-year-old reputation on the line by introducing its slick monthly magazine called Fact and subtitled the Money Management Magazine. The first few issues are being distributed on a controlled basis - free of charge - to some 100,000 Value Line subscribers.

The publisher of Money, William M. Kelly Jr., reports that his publication, which will be 10 years old in October, reached the 1 million mark in paid circulation earlier this year.

Everything seems to be bullish at Money. In the first six months of 1982, according to Mr. Kelly, Money's circulation has gone up 18 percent, with the number of advertising pages up 12 percent and advertising revenues up a whopping 40 percent.

For a new magazine, Fact also appears to be doing well. Unlike its sister publication, Fact cheerfully carries paid advertising. The Value Line market letter passes up ads, not wanting to risk compromising its editorial ability to freely examine and criticize corporations and their financial maneuverings. Fact sees no need to struggle under such editorial strictures. Indeed, with no paid subscribers, Fact must rely on advertising to foot the bill.

So far, for the first six months, advertising has been doing just that - keeping Fact afloat. Dorothy A. Berry, president of Arnold Bernhard and publisher of Fact, remarked:

''There were 26 pages of advertising in the first issue in March, and we just about broke even with that introductory issue on a gross advertising revenue basis, exclusive of start-up costs. Since then, we've been just about breaking even on each of the rest of the issues, with some just above and some just below the profit borderline.''

That first issue of Fact contained only 64 pages. Subsequent issues have had 72 pages and carried an average of 33 pages of advertising. Miss Berry indicated a goal of 300 pages of paid advertising for the first year of publication, with the size of the ''book'' remaining the same or increasing to 80 pages.

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With all the uncertainties and unrest in today's gyrating economy, was this a wise moment to launch still another magazine?

John Mack Carter, director of magazine development for Hearst Enterprises and a longtime observer of the publishing industry thinks it was.

''With all the ups and downs in the economy, this is exactly the right moment to offer consumers a personal money-management magazine. It looks like a shrewd move on the part of Arnold Bernhard & Company,'' he said. ''People are used to reading consumer reports on the things they want to buy. And they need a pubication that addresses their personal financial needs.''

At the Magazine Publishers Association, senior vice-president P. Robert Farley ticks off some sobering statistics: ''Each year some 200 new consumer magazines are announced. Out of that total, the survival rate is not high. Less than half of them will last the year out, and the long-term survival rate is as low as 15 percent or less. Some of those announced don't even get as far as the first issue.''

Giving the justification for Fact, Miss Berry said:

''We believe that with our Value Line publications our subscribers were getting the best stock information obtainable anywhere. But we felt there was a gap, or lack of hard information, in other investment areas. We looked around, and what we found were a lot of 'tout' sheets used by people to promote their own interest. So we launched Fact to give our investors a single source of unslanted information on such areas as precious metals, real estate, rare gems and other collectibles, insurance, and mutual funds.''

It's not clear whether Miss Berry found an example in Money magazine. In any case, the people at Money have been generous in welcoming their new competition.

''Based on our reported gains for the first part of this year, clearly there's great interest in personal money management,'' says Mr. Kelly, the Money publisher. ''So this could be a good moment for entering the field. We welcome the publication of Fact and wish our friends at Value Line well.'' Value Line advertises in Money.

Fact is going to need all the good wishes it can garner. At some point it will have to convert its subscribers to a paid basis and expand its subscription lists in order to continue to be taken seriously by advertisers.

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