PUBLISHING AGENCIES: THE CASE FOR PERSONALISED MAGAZINE SECTIONS - The word that’s on every contract publisher’s lips in 1997 is segmentation, making full use of client databases. But can such a targeted approach to specialised groups be w

’Did you spot the difference?’ a publisher eagerly asks. In front of me lie two seemingly identical copies of NatWest’s HomeLife magazine - its bold title, the strapline tantalisingly begging readers to ’win pounds 1,000 worth of antiques’ and the photo of Gary Lineker are the same on both covers. Inside, articles run the gamut from general lifestyle (interior design, celebrity interview) to financial issues (raising capital, NatWest news).

’Did you spot the difference?’ a publisher eagerly asks. In front

of me lie two seemingly identical copies of NatWest’s HomeLife magazine

- its bold title, the strapline tantalisingly begging readers to ’win

pounds 1,000 worth of antiques’ and the photo of Gary Lineker are the

same on both covers. Inside, articles run the gamut from general

lifestyle (interior design, celebrity interview) to financial issues

(raising capital, NatWest news).

There is a subtle difference between the two copies, however. Close

examination reveals that one has articles about share dealing and buying

a property while the second has stories about inheritance and capital

gains tax plus advice on how to make a will. HomeLife, from Specialist

Publications, is aimed at two distinct and well-targeted ’life-stage’

groups: young mortgage holders and mature ones.

Clearly, the urge for publishers to refine the contract magazine market

further and further has hit. Segmentation is the new catchword and it

takes many forms. Some customer magazines, such as HomeLife, are

produced using identical text and images but with added pages that

target specific ’life-stage’ groups - from singles and young families to

pensioners. Other magazines are geographically segmented, for example

national editions with local copy printed alongside pan-European or

global text.

HomeLife’s publisher, Jim Addison, says: ’Segmentation allows the

opportunity of making a magazine that is more relevant to its target

audience, without enormous additional costs. Any publication you produce

has got to have the ’need to read’ factor, otherwise why would somebody

bother to read it? By segmenting, it means that you can address yourself

more specifically to particular areas of your target audience.’

A random survey of the leading contract publishing houses reveals that

segmented magazines are high on the agenda for 1997.

Forward continues its success with Tesco as the Clubcard Magazine is

about to launch a segmented magazine for a second client and is pitching

for a third.

Though Redwood Publishing’s TSB publication, MoneyTalk, is suspended

while the client discusses its future with Lloyds following its takeover

of TSB, the publisher produces Swarovski, for members of the Swarovski

crystal collector’s club, in eight languages and Psion User in


Premier, which publishes Nikon Pro in six languages, is currently

testing a segmented magazine for a major financial services company and

is about to trial another for a FTSE 100 client. Its High Life inflight

magazine for British Airways might be segmented in the future.

River Publishing produces the segmented Cardnet for Lloyds, has

developed IBM’s BankNotes and its new off-shoot, EuroNotes, and is about

to announce its latest segmented publication, a development of its Asda


The starting point for a successfully targeted segmented magazine is a

good database. This is the key to unlocking a wealth of information

about clients’ customers - age, title, purchasing habits, financial

situation, etc. Banks, building societies and financial services are

obvious groups with detailed databases, as are retail groups.

Supermarkets with loyalty card schemes, including Tesco’s Clubcard,

Sainsbury’s Reward card and Safeway’s ABC card, are ideal candidates for

such magazines because of the precise information they can garner about

customers’ buying preferences.

Sarah Morris, the brand development manager at Forward, views the

Clubcard Magazine as a ’marketing vehicle with magazine values’. Five

versions are sent quarterly to four-and-a-half million Tesco Clubcard

customers carefully segmented into life-stage groups. ’An emotional bond

is made with customers,’ Morris explains. ’We make the magazine relevant

to them by acknowledging that all customers aren’t the same.’

Each issue retains a core Tesco tone of voice, look and feel, yet the

editorial, products promoted, recipes and ads are completely


This is enormously useful for advertisers such as nappy manufacturers,

who will place an ad in the Clubcard Magazine targeted at families but

not in the other four groups.

Forward and Tesco, with its direct marketing approach, then tracks and

analyses customers’ purchasing habits. Data can then be presented to

advertisers showing that more units of a specific product in a specific

store were bought by a specific life-stage group in the weeks following


Much more data can be culled via such direct marketing devices as

questionnaires, competitions, 0898 numbers, special offers and customer

reply coupons scattered throughout the segmented magazine itself.

Financial institutions are well placed to produce segmented


Redwood’s TSB magazine, MoneyTalk, was produced in four versions - one

for mortgage and credit card customers, one for mortgage only, one for

credit card only and a fourth for customers with neither but who held

other TSB products.

Mike Potter, Redwood’s managing director, explains that in the financial

sector it is difficult to maintain a single high-circulation customer

magazine because it reaches such a diverse range of ABC1 people.

’Segmentation is going to happen but it’s not essential,’ Potter


’If you’re dealing with 150,000 Harvey Nichols customers it’s not

essential because they have sufficient commonality of interests. You

might differentiate the London and Leeds editions, as we do, but that’s

just customisation.

’Segmentation is where you take a one million, two million or even four

million circulation and divide it geographically, socio-demographically,

by life-stage or product purchasing habits and make it better


They only work if people read them and they will only be read if they

are relevant.’

Publishers agree that the additional costs to the client are small in

relation to the increased targeting effect. Certainly, if two versions

of a customer magazine are produced, costs are not doubled but increase

by perhaps 10 to 15 per cent depending on the size of the print run. The

editorial and sales staff are already in place as are Apple Mac

technology and the facility for perfect bound printing, allowing

multiples of four-page sections to be dropped in at a low added


Segmentation builds brand image, according to Grahame Lake, the managing

director of TPD. He publishes Education Interface for Apple Computer in

five languages - an inner section featuring local news is bound with a

common outer section highlighting pan-European strategic issues. The

client loves it, Lake says, because Apple combines a consistent European

message with a sympathetic approach to local concerns. ’It gives Apple

complete control over brand issues,’ he claims.

For River Publishing’s client, IBM, the added costs have been worth


Keith Gold, the marketing manager, says that the BankNotes and EuroNotes

magazines successfully put forward the message that IBM focuses enormous

resources on ’solutions and services’ and not just hardware.

’Advertising is a very blunt instrument,’ Gold concludes. ’Magazines and

direct mail are high value and more effective than a one-page display ad

in the Financial Times, for example.’

A number of publishers approach segmentation with a sceptical eye.

Nicola Murphy, the sales and marketing director of River Publishing,

believes it can be ’dangerous’.

’You lose the opportunity to cross-sell. If you say this person is a man

who drives this car and is only interested in this particular insurance

product, what about his mother, who might be interested in a retirement

bond, and his wife, who is interested in something else?’

Premier’s managing director, Craig Waller, is equally cautious. ’There

is little point in rolling out a highly sophisticated, targeted magazine

to different segments of your database and wondering if it will


You have to do a trial, to a controlled group to keep costs down, and

get it measured every possible way you can. That way you can measure the

cost-benefit equation.’


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