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The magazine was founded by Marshall Field III in 1941 as a weekly magazine supplement for his own paper (the Chicago Sun) and for others in the United States. By 1946, Parade had achieved a circulation of 3.5 million.
Parade Digital Partners is a distribution network that includes the web site Parade.com and over 700 of the magazine's partner newspaper web sites. Parade Digital Partners has a reach of more than 30 million monthly unique visitors (comScore Q1 2014).
Throughout 2016, Gannett Company, which had produced USA Weekend, the most direct competitor to Parade until its December 2014 discontinuation, added (or in most cases, re-added) Parade to many of its Sunday newspapers as a replacement.
Beginning on the weekend of December 28, 2019, Parade changed its publishing schedule to skip six weekends a year, planning to publish combined holiday issues. The first such combined publication was a Christmas-themed issue published the weekend of December 21, 2019. The magazine published the weekend of April 4, 2020 also covered the weekend of April 11; Easter was April 12. The magazine published the weekend of May 16 also covered the weekend of May 23; Memorial Day was May 25. The magazine published the weekend of June 27 also covered the weekend of July 4, Independence Day.
The magazine has one main feature article, often a smaller feature article, and a number of regular columns. There is also advertising for consumer products, some with clippable coupons or tear-off business reply cards.
"Ask Marilyn" by Marilyn vos Savant: Vos Savant answers questions from readers, from brainteasers to explanations of illogical customs, advice, or legitimate philosophical questions. Occasionally she will pose a brainteaser of her own or poll her readers.
Cartoon Parade: Panel cartoons by various creators, including Dave Coverly, Carla Ventresca, Dan Piraro, and Gary McCoy. By 2016, due to the expense and lack of interest, these had been dropped.
"In Step With" by James Brady: Celebrity interview column which ceased after Brady's 2009 death.
"Intelligence Report": A guide to health, life, money, entertainment, and more
"Numbrix": Also by Marilyn vos Savant, Numbrix is a simple puzzle game in which the reader arranges the numbers 1 to 81 in a continuous path that fits into a 9×9 square grid. Numbrix was introduced in July 2008 (originally as a 7×7 puzzle). In addition to the weekly print version, vos Savant also produces daily Numbrix puzzles for Parade's Web site. Since 2014, Parade's site has also published a much more difficult variant, "Jadium" (formerly "Snakepit"), by Jeff Marchant.
"Our Towns" is a regular feature written by journalists from Parade newspaper partners.
"The Parade High School All-America Teams": This sports franchise honors as All-Americans the best U.S. high school athletes in boys and girls basketball, football, and boys and girls soccer. Parade began its series in 1957 with its boys basketball honors, and expanded to football six years later. Girls basketball was added in 1977, boys soccer in 1979, and girls soccer in 1993. In 2010, Parade introduced its All-America Service Team, which honors high-school students for commitment to service and volunteerism.
"Walter Scott's Personality Parade" by Walter Scott (a pseudonym, originally used by Lloyd Shearer and now by a rotating group of edit staffers): In Q&A sessions, celebrities often discuss some project or movie which is just about to be released.
"Views," an editorial column by various authors, including CNN political analyst David Gergen and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz.
"Keeping Up with Youth" (1960-70s)
"Fresh Voices": A former column where teenage readers would give their opinions on a different topic. Daria, from the MTV series of the same name, would frequently appear among them, giving a sarcastic opinion.
"What People Earn", an annual, typically early spring
"Where America Lives" is an ongoing thematic feature
"What America Eats" is presented seasonally throughout the year
"The Giving Issue" is typically in the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend
Publishing lag time
The magazine has a lag time to publication of about ten days, which has caused the magazine to print statements that were out-of-date by the time Parade was publicly available in a weekend newspaper.
The January 6, 2008 edition cover and main article asked whether Benazir Bhutto was "America's best hope against Al-Qaeda," after her December 27, 2007 assassination. In response to reader and media complaints (and besides individual newspapers noting the discrepancy to prevent reader confusion, as the magazine had an additional week of lag time due to the holiday season), Parade stated on their website:
"Dear Parade Readers,
Parade publishes more than 32 million copies of each issue and distributes them to 415 newspapers across the country. In order to meet our printing, distribution and insertion deadlines, we must send the issue to the printer three weeks before the cover date. Our Benazir Bhutto issue, for example, went to press on Dec. 19. By the time Ms. Bhutto was slain on Dec. 27, this issue of Parade was already printed and shipped to our partner newspapers. Recalling, reprinting and redistributing our January 6 issue was not an option."
A similar incident occurred in the February 11, 2007 issue when Walter Scott's "Personality Parade" reported that Barbaro, an American thoroughbredracehorse and winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby, was in a stable condition. Barbaro was euthanized thirteen days earlier, on January 29, 2007.
On April 27, 2014, Walter Scott's "Personality Parade" reported that Joby Ogwyn would BASE jump in a wingsuit from the summit of Mount Everest live on the Discovery Channel in May 2014. However, before the edition appeared in print, the government of Nepal closed Mount Everest to climbers because of an avalanche on April 18, 2014 that killed 16 Sherpas, including five Sherpas working for the Discovery Channel in advance of Ogwyn's planned jump, hastening the cancellation of the special.