Publishing Agencies: Audience Delivery - Customer magazines are adopting more innovative ways of distribution to reach their target readership

Customer magazines are often criticised for their pile it high, distribute free, push up the ABC approach to distribution, which - it is argued - means the reader doesn’t have the same relationship with the title as its paid-for cousins. But the growth of the business suggests that great care is being taken to make sure that the target audience does not turn its collective nose up and leave thousands of pounds worth of unread magazine as so much razed forest.

Customer magazines are often criticised for their pile it high,

distribute free, push up the ABC approach to distribution, which - it is

argued - means the reader doesn’t have the same relationship with the

title as its paid-for cousins. But the growth of the business suggests

that great care is being taken to make sure that the target audience

does not turn its collective nose up and leave thousands of pounds worth

of unread magazine as so much razed forest.



The more definable the market, the more targeted the distribution is

likely to be and, in theory, the more likely it is that the target is

going to read it.



Personalisation is one of the buzzwords in customer publishing. But it

often means that a broad readership customer title arrives on the

doorstep with a letter from the local dealer saying how much they

appreciate your custom. However, it can mean something more

technical.



In the business-to-business market, the Royal Mail has a

subscription-based readership of four titles, each tailored to the

particular grade of its customers - from the senior corporate clients to

the post-room managers. Carolyn Goodall, marketing manager at Brass

Tacks, which works with the Royal Mail, says it’s not enough to know who

their readers are, it is also necessary to keep them interested:

’Existing customers are named individuals. We do extensive research

using reader surveys, which often include incentives, such as offering

holiday breaks, to ensure we get a response.’



Where the market is large but the target audience is diverse, possibly

spread out across several countries and speaking a mixture of languages,

segmentation comes in to its own. Haymarket’s publishing director for

customer magazines, Andrew Taplin, explains that, like other publishers,

Haymarket will translate as and when is necessary. It produces one

magazine in five different language editions and distributes them in

different ways across territories from here to Australia.



Where publishers are trying to bring in a wider audience, they can

target by using a ready-made readership. Some publishers have found ways

of reaching a wider market through putting their titles on newsstands or

piggybacking them with appropriate newspapers, either in a one-off

promotion or as a regular addition.



As the industry matures, more customer titles look like glossy consumer

products. John Brown Publishing specialises in general consumer titles

and customer magazines, and although the two divisions are separate, the

circulation department is combined.



Andrew Hirsch, chief executive at John Brown, says many of the wider

circulation titles cross over to a general and transnational readership:

’We’re producing magazines all over the world. Ikea Magazine in the US

has a circulation of 1.2 million - 800,000 mailed out, 200,000 in-store

and 200,000 on the newsstand. With a limited amount of marketing we sold

more than 100,000 copies. To me, that says if you have a good magazine

it will sell.’



But while newsstand may be seen as the Mecca, because it signifies a

greater commitment than free-to-customer delivery, it doesn’t

necessarily work. ’Home interest is a big consumer sector so it makes

sense to go toward the newsstand - but unless the magazine is good we

advise against it. It’s got to be the right product, in the right

category,’ Hirsch explains, adding that Hot Air for Virgin, a recent

John Brown win, is a good example of a title that is for target readers

only. ’Who would buy an in-flight magazine off the newsstand?’ he

asks.



Customer magazines may feature celebrity covers and use high-quality

production to raise a title’s profile, but their breadth of appeal is

curtailed by the nature of the product. Getting the distribution right,

whether free or paid-for, must be a priority. As a result, publishers

and clients increasingly need to know what you do, what you drive and

where you shop. As the old-time mobster used to say, they know where you

live.





DISTRIBUTION STORIES



Waitrose Food Illustrated



There are distribution advantages with the switch from independent to

customer title when the buyer is a large food chain. When Waitrose

bought it, Food Illustrated enjoyed an instant circulation increase to

367,000 of which more than 300,000 were Waitrose and John Lewis account

holders.



With the food retailer’s financial clout behind it, the first issue of

the revamped title was sent out in promotions with national newspapers

and distributed at sponsored concerts. The magazine’s publisher, Sarah

Williams, feels that it’s a case of marrying the right product with the

right title. ’The magazine we were producing was ideal for Waitrose’s

customers. Don’t forget, it’s a marketing tool and we make sure that we

reflect the views of Waitrose, for example on organic food. But the idea

is to provide a fantastic food magazine that has editorial independence,

while reflecting what is going on at Waitrose.’



Freedom for Chrysler



Freedom for Chrysler launched in 1998 with a circulation of 350,000

across Europe and is published triannually in the UK by Haymarket

Customer Magazines, with several other language editions edited to suit

ten markets. In Switzerland alone, it goes out in three languages. The

publishing director, Andrew Taplin, explains: ’The magazine projects an

up market lifestyle and way of thinking that defines the brand in

Europe.’ It is sent out to existing Chrysler and Jeep owners, but some

copies are held back and then distributed through dealerships. Other

distribution points include motor shows and Chrysler-sponsored

events.



Garden Tips



As the nation’s gardeners start digging and planting this spring, the

Garden Centre Association’s free promotional title will start to appear

in local nurseries and on door mats around the country. Using the

association’s nationwide database, the new venture through Mediamark

plans a circulation of 550,000 for its first edition of Garden Tips,

which will show the benefits of shopping in local centres rather than at

the big stores. Denise Curtis, editorial director for Mediamark, says:

’The magazine will be targeted at the mass market, contain articles of

general interest and be filled with top tips and advice. We’re not

segmenting the magazine, but personalising it. Each door-dropped copy

contains a letter from the local garden centre.’



Living Music



Summerhouse’s Living Music is free to 40,000 Friends of the London

Symphony Orchestra, although that figure rises to around 400,000 three

times a year when the magazine piggybacks with the London Evening

Standard. Tim James, Living Music’s publisher, says: ’LSO wanted to

reach a new audience but one that was highly receptive to an editorial

on classical music, even if it was not necessarily as well informed as

Living Music’s core readership.’ Since the venture, bookings for LSO

concerts have risen, sometimes by as much as 400 per cent, James says.

Inevitably, there has been a certain ’finessing’ of editorial, as James

puts it, toward opening up the content beyond its core readership of

classical music aficionados.



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