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Maryland Magazine arises from deathbed Private publishers lift circulation, ads


An article about Maryland magazine on March 27 incorrectl identified Gerry Hartung as the founder of Baltimore Scene magazine in 1982.

The magazine was founded by Donald H. Richardson Jr. in 1980.

* The Sun regrets the errors

In the winter of 1991, subscribers of Maryland Magazine found a notice in the state-produced journal saying that issue could be the last.

With the state in a serious budget squeeze, the glossy quarterly was looking less like an economic development tool and more like a boondoggle. Nobody wanted to see the 24-year-old journal of Maryland history and culture die, but if it couldn't find a private publisher, it was a goner.

But a buyer did step forward, and the magazine was rescued from the budget executioner. Now the spring 1993 issue is in the hands of subscribers -- packed with advertising that the publication couldn't accept when it was published by the Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED).

Now, Maryland Magazine's savior, Hartung/Weber Publications of Baltimore, is moving forward with plans to celebrate the magazine's 25th anniversary in August by increasing the number of issues from four to six a year, said publisher Gerry Hartung.

The 21 pages of ads in the 64-page spring issue represent a dramatic jump for the magazine, which ran only eight pages of ads in 1992's winter issue, Mr. Hartung said. Circulation, which dipped to 22,000 after the state ran its brink-of-doom notice, has rebounded to about 30,000, he said. Seven new jobs have been created.

The magazine has a lot of room to grow, Mr. Hartung said. Undethe state, the peak circulation was about 50,000. "We believe the magazine's market is somewhere between 50,000 to 75,000 for the state," he said.

Mr. Hartung said he and his partner, Scott Weber, became interested in Maryland Magazine while their company was exploring the idea of contracting with the state to sell ads for the money-losing publication. When the state decided to try to sell the magazine instead, Hartung/Weber was the highest bidder. Mr. Hartung declined to disclose the purchase price and DEED officials could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Hartung and Mr. Weber came to the magazine last Februarwith extensive publishing experience. In 1982, Mr. Hartung launched the tourism magazine In Baltimore and later founded Baltimore Scene. Mr. Weber joined him in the business in 1984. They sold the company in 1988 to GuestInformant Inc., which still publishes the magazines.

After the sale, the partners launched Hartung/Weber, which owns a medical publication called Physicians Practice Digest andpublishes other journals.

Mr. Hartung said the Maryland Magazine's focus has not changed dramatically from what it was under state ownership.

One difference now is that the privately owned publication is able to single out specific businesses, such as bed-and-breakfast inns, and recommend them to readers, he said.

In some respects, Maryland is competing for the same advertising dollars as Mid-Atlantic Country magazine, but Mr. Hartung said there are important differences between the two publications.

"There are certain people who have a lot of loyalty to their state. There are Marylanders and Virginians. There are no mid-Atlantickers," he said.

Maryland's rebound has not come without some pain, however. Mr. Hartung recently replaced the publication's editor, D. Patrick Hornberger, who had run the magazine for 10 years under state ownership and stayed on after the purchase.

"Pat had been with the magazine for 10 years, and it needed to be freshened up," Mr. Hartung said.

Mr. Hartung said the magazine actually eked out a small profit last year, but he expects it to run in the red for the next two to three years while his company invests in its expansion.

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