In spite of choppy waters for the magazine industry, it seems like it’s plain sailing for custom publishing’s achievers. Pick n Pay’s Fresh Living (John Brown Publishing), launched in November 2007, is one such magazine.
The title received two awards at the Pica Magazine Publishing and Editorial Excellence Awards: in the category Customer Publishing Excellence – Retail and Consumer Goods, as well as the coveted Customer Magazine of the Year Award.
According to account director, Lisa Visser, Fresh Living is a result of extensive and ongoing customer research. “Given the international trend towards (publishing) customer magazines and the size of the Pick n Pay retail chain, Fresh Living was a natural progression.”
She says the core function of the magazine is to promote the brand and highlight products available at Pick n Pay. “The magazine creates a dialogue with customers and immerses them in the Pick n Pay brand in an inspirational and accessible manner. Readers are also being educated on seasonal produce and new product offerings.”
Abigail Murison, editor of the Clicks ClubCard magazine (published by The Publishing Partnership), recently won the Pica for Editor of the Year in the Customer Publishing category. She says the magazine focuses on rewards and that the title’s aim is to inspire, inform and connect with readers. Based on the results of annual research (among 2,000 respondents), the magazine seems to be making an impact: “For instance, looking at the 2008 research, 60 percent of respondents tried a product or service that was advertised in the mag, 51 percent started eating more healthily based on magazine advice, 27 percent started a beauty or grooming routine, and 25 percent changed their beauty or grooming routine based on ClubCard’s advice.”
Wild, The Wild Card loyalty programme’s magazine, published by TiP Publishing, was initially launched as a magazine mailed directly to cardholders, but is now distributed free in participating parks.
The magazine was highly commended in the category Customer Publishing Excellence: Education, Health, Conservation, Safety and Security of the 2008 Pica Magazine Publishing and Editorial Excellence Awards. Says Joan Kruger, editorial director of TiP Publishing: “Reader surveys and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive. On top of this our client is enthusiastic, appreciates the quality and content of the magazine and is supportive of all the communication initiatives. Can any publisher wish for more?”
Sumien Brink, editor of Woolworths Taste magazine (New Media Publishing), which was recognised as the South African Magazine of the Year in the AdMag Awards, says they measure achievements in terms of products that sell out in stores after an issue has hit the shelves, as well as magazine sales and advertising targets that are met.
Taste, which produces nine issues per year, prints on average 40,000 copies per issue and has a circulation of 36,358 (single copy sales: 31,467; ABC, January – June 2008). Brink says the magazine’s advertising targets (which are confidential) are met frequently. “Those that are not met, tend to be in months that are traditionally difficult months to sell in, for example the January/February period just after Christmas when budgets for new fiscals have not been finalised yet. We do try and make up in subsequent issues for targets that are not reached.”
Nielsen puts Taste’s adspend for January – September 2008 at R4.3-million.
According to Visser, Fresh Living‘s advertising revenue is in excess of R500,000 a month, and growing. Within its first year, the magazine has achieved an audited circulation of 48,012 (single copy sales: 34,133; ABC, July – September 2008).
ClubCard’s circulation is 614,144 (ABC, January – June 2008) with a readership of over 1-million (AMPS 2008A). Its adspend for 2008 was approximately R2.4-million net per edition (six editions per year) and R1.3-million net for spin-off supplements, according to Murison. (Nielsen puts the magazine’s adspend for January – September 2008 at R8.9-million).
Wild has a circulation of 102,439 (ABC, July 2007 – June 2008). “Our readers are wildlife enthusiasts and travellers who frequent the national parks, reserves and resorts of the programme. Considering the visitor numbers of the properties in question, the audience is enormous. For example, Kruger National Park alone receives more than a million visitors a year through its gates,” says Kruger.
As far as advertising targets are concerned, Kruger says Wild aims for a 70:30 editorial: advertising. “Despite seeing a continual issue-by-issue growth in ad revenue (in a very stressed market where ad revenues are falling), we have not reached that target yet.” (Nielsen doesn’t measure adspend for Wild or Fresh Living.)
How to succeed
Kruger says there is no simple recipe for success. “We just work hard, focusing on the quality of all aspects of what we do.” As for ClubCard, Murison says the team is passionate about producing content that is going to delight their readers and get great results for advertisers. “We listen to our readers and try to share a range of information, options and solutions in our articles.”
A team that loves food is key to Taste’s success. “Our talented team is drawn from the most experienced magazine practitioners, most knowledgeable food editors and awardwinning editors, writers and designers, who love and care for each page in Woolworths Taste magazine,” says Brink. But it’s not as easy as it may sound. According to Visser, the current tough economic environment makes it challenging for all businesses to keep afloat.
Murison says ClubCard’s biggest threats are the cost of paper, print and postage. She believes that the economic pinch might not be all that bad. “We’ve seen a number of good consumer titles close this year. In some ways this presents an opportunity for a free customer magazine like ClubCard. In hard times, getting a great magazine for nothing makes it an even better reward.”
Wild is affected by rising production costs and declining adspend. But, says Kruger, that’s a given. “Of more importance in the long run, is how to unlock the huge potential of custom publications for our clients and to demonstrate the value of them having an ongoing conversation with their clients.”
According to Kruger, the big challenge is how to put a monetary value on the fact that they are getting the undivided attention of readers. “How do you quantify the change of perceptions brought about by an absorbing article? It will only happen when we as an industry start to track those reader actions that flow from time spent with a custom magazine. Custom publications have to earn their keep. That’s the bottom line. And for that, companies need the expertise of the seasoned communicators in good publishing companies.”
She says what is needed, is diligent monitoring of and wellresearched information on the power of custom publications, as well as journalism schools that recognise the necessity to teach the fundamentals of custom publishing and zero tolerance for sloppy and uninspiring publications.
According to Taste’s Brink, niche titles will, more than ever, have to provide compelling content and value to readers. An online strategy will also be vital. “Customer magazines will have to prove through research that they are still the most attractive medium to get a marketing message across.”
More to come
These magazines have a lot more planned. Fresh Living plans to grow the brand identity of the magazine and increase their product offering by increasing the size of the book and developing brand extensions such as supplements and events. They also plan to create an online presence for the magazine, increase advertising support and provide new advertising avenues and promotional opportunities, through supplements, online initiatives and cover mounts.
In 2009 ClubCard will be producing five supplements that cater for distinct customer segments, based on purchasing patterns. These include a gifting and winter wellness supplement. They will also be aiming to enhance the connection between the printed magazines, e-communications and their website.
Says Visser: “Custom publications are exploding in South Africa.
“Previous resistance to these magazines has disappeared and is being replaced by a belief that they deliver to their intended audience.”
Kruger wonders how long it will be before quality free magazines start replacing consumer magazines. “With gripping and inspirational content and excellent design, there’s no stopping them. And we want to be there, right at the forefront of developments.”
Sarietha Engelbrecht is a journalist at Die Burger.
- This article first appeared in The Media magazine (January 2009).