PUBLISHING AGENCIES: WHAT NEXT FOR CUSTOMER MAGAZINES? - Jim Davies talks to four industry chiefs about what the future holds for contract publishing

Questions posed: 1 What do you think will be the next big trend in customer magazines? 2 What is the argument for a customer magazine Website? 3 Should customer magazines be more like consumer magazines? 4 What will happen to the industry when it reaches saturation point and virtually every client has a magazine?

Questions posed: 1 What do you think will be the next big trend in

customer magazines? 2 What is the argument for a customer magazine

Website? 3 Should customer magazines be more like consumer magazines?

4 What will happen to the industry when it reaches saturation point and

virtually every client has a magazine?


1 I think there are three.

a) More market sectors will begin to use the medium, particularly fmcg

brands such as the drinks sector.

b) More databases will be segmented, enabling magazines to use selective

binding to become more targeted.

c) Customer magazines will take more advertising revenue than


We have seen attitudes to customer magazines become more positive as

agencies realise these titles can deliver desirable audiences that are

difficult to reach elsewhere (M&S Magazine, for example, which delivers

high coverage of ABC1 housewives who are prepared to pay more for


2 We are essentially content providers and the medium we use to

communicate with customers is largely irrelevant; it could just as well

be a TV channel or a Website rather than magazines. If you work on the

basis that we are providing information that customers want to receive,

it makes sense to allow them to do this through new media, too.

3 If you mean in terms of quality then, yes, some should be. Both

customer and consumer magazines should be of the highest quality.

However, customer magazines cannot be general like newsstand consumer

magazines - they must be relevant to the brand and the relationship the

customer has with the brand.

4 I do not actually believe in the concept of saturation; after all,

nobody says there is saturation point for TV advertising. If they are

not me-toos or bland, general lifestyle titles, then people will

continue to want to read customer magazines.


1 In October last year, Marketing Business, the membership magazine of

the Chartered Institute of Marketing, became the first magazine to be

printed using computer to plate technology (CPT). I wouldn’t be

surprised to see other companies follow suit shortly because CPT offers

so many advantages; it reduces lead times and costs.

Direct marketing is changing the nature of contract publishing. In the

future, contract publishers will be doing more than producing editorial

for clients. We will be central to their marketing programmes.

2 We make no distinction between print and electronic media - both need

to deliver marketing-driven editorial content. However, a magazine

Website may appeal to a different audience and, because it is

interactive, allows a two-way communication that will enhance our

knowledge of readers and, ultimately, enable highly sophisticated

targeting. At the moment, electronic media are produced by people whose

background is technical; there is a need for companies like ours to

transfer our editorial expertise into electronic publishing.

3 The distinction between customer and newsstand magazines exists only

in the minds of the client and publisher. Readers see only magazines,

good and bad, which they read because of the content. British Airways’

High Life is read by an extremely discriminating audience and has a

greater circulation than Vanity Fair, Tatler and Harpers and Queen

combined. Whether or not a magazine has a cover price is irrelevant - if

readers don’t like it, they won’t read it.

4 There is a way to go before the industry reaches saturation point, and

plenty of companies whose marketing would benefit from a customer

magazine. But there is also room for improvement and I anticipate

companies will look to improve quality as the market matures. The UK is

the world leader in contract publishing and we will see significant

market growth overseas.


1 Organisations that already have effective customer magazines will look

at segmenting them into different groups of customers. Some industry

sectors are under-represented in terms of the proportions of companies

in those sectors that have customer magazines. These sectors (for

example, fmcg brands, utilities) offer exciting new business

opportunities for members of the Association of Publishing Agencies. A

good customer magazine elicits response to a number of devices and at a

number of levels. Effective measurement criteria have to be established

and agreed. Customer magazines will become acceptable advertising media

as the APA members demonstrate their magazines’ audited circulations,

effectiveness and improved status.

2 We are looking at the future of publishing. Publishers must reclaim

the Internet as our domain because we have the communication skills, we

have the editorial and design skills and the commercial expertise to

make publishing on the Web viable. Both Brass Tacks’ own Website

(available in April) and the APA’s embrace the future and position us as

the natural home for our clients who wish to communicate with their

customers via the Internet.

3 More and more customer magazines do look like consumer magazines and

there is no reason why editorial, design and production should be

inferior. However, the purpose of a customer magazine must be taken into

account - it has to meet the client’s marketing needs. In the end,

clients (or their budgetary constraints) will determine what they


4 It’s a long way off and anyway, as businesses, brands and the global

market evolve, there will always be more opportunities. For example, the

stationery or the brochure design industries did not grind to a

standstill when every company had one. If we reached that stage in my

working life I would be very happy as we would have been very



1 First, we’ll see continuing increases in the quantity and quality of

measurement - remember, these magazines exist only for as long as they

work for clients, readers and advertisers. Second, there will be rapid

integration of interactive media, which are ideal for customer

communication. Third, we will gain acceptance as a major medium among

media planners. And, finally, the UK experts in this field are world

leaders and we will all start to export our skills in a major way.

2 If the Website enhances the printed magazine (and vice versa), with

each medium playing to its strengths, then this is the perfect


Online communication can offer immediate news and huge searchable

archives, as well as three new dimensions for content (audio, video and

animation) and the facility for users to go to exactly what they are

seeking. Print offers portability, universal utility and the ability to

surprise and delight readers. By using the two media effectively, we can

achieve the holy grail of loyalty marketers - individual mass

communication, which sounds like an oxymoron but is now becoming very


3 In terms of design, production and quality of content I think there is

now no difference between the best contract and consumer magazines.

Standards in contract publishing have risen dramatically in the past

couple of years and we also do a lot more measurement than commercial

publishers to check the readers are happy - after all, we’re spending

somebody else’s money. But the two will never be the same because they

have different objectives.

4 As I said, these magazines will exist only for as long as they work.

There will obviously come a day when everyone who could use this medium

effectively is already doing so, at which point our growth slows to that

of the sponsors’. How does this differ from, say, advertising today? I

don’t see the problem: things change, new brands and companies appear,

programmes expand - and, after all, there’s the rest of the world out



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