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Developing an Editorial Mix for Your Regional Magazine by Anicka Quin

By Anicka Quin, Editorial Director, Western Living and Vancouver magazines

So you’re running a regional magazine—that’s great! The good news is, publications that celebrate community and connect with their readership on a personal identity level are more important than ever—and more popular than ever, too. Some of the most successful magazine launches in recent years have been focused around celebrating those unique communities and connection that is built around them—often creating an identity where people may have not recognized their need for one (think Garden and Gun, Burnt Roti, Kinfolk). Great regional magazines spark the imaginations of their readers, who will identify with your message of community and celebration of home.

So how do you do that?

Understand Your Audience

You’ll want to understand just who the reader is, and be able to paint a clear picture for your editorial team. If you’re just launching, some of this is going to come from gut check—you and your circle of friends and prospective readers who will express what really gets them going. Even new launches need to spend a lot of time out in the community, getting a sense of who their ideal readers will be. If you’ve got an advertising model for your publication, you can informally poll your clients as potential readers. (You’ll want to separate what works for them as a client—write about me!—to what works for them as a resident of the community, of course.)

For established publications, Vividata stats are gold—dig deep into figuring out your reader’s habits. (Do they own pets? Are they likely to spend more than $20 on a bottle of wine, or are they more interested in learning about the deals out there? Do they travel internationally, or do they explore the local haunts?) The closer you can get to what makes them tick, the better filters you will have for determining the ideal stories for your magazine.

If you’re not a member of Vividata, make your own readership survey, ideally with a great prize attached to generate more interest, and ask the psychographic questions you’re wrestling with yourself. Rather than just “How do you like our column by X?” find out what makes them tick as people: what are they passionate about in their communities and in life?

Your online readers and social media followers can also be a source of feedback. While they aren’t always the same people reading print and online—so do not assume the info you gather here is the final word—the stats you can garner from Google Analytics will give you a richer picture. And a story that goes viral online can also give you some instant feedback on what people want.

Who Are You Celebrating?

Magazines can be a powerful force in a community. When they get it right, they can both effect real change (see Toronto Life‘s story on police carding in Toronto, and its after effects) and strengthen a community. Western Living runs a Designers of the Year award program, for example, and the winners of those awards see their businesses change overnight—our readers support them by hiring them. What communities are underserved in your region and how can you reflect them in your pages?

People Want to See People

The success of regional magazines is often about reflecting the faces of those people in your community on the page. National magazines can struggle to truly represent all areas of the country, but you don’t have to. Whose story needs being told? In Western Living, “people seeing people” can be as simple as ensuring the homes we photograph have the real people living in them, and photographed within them. We highlight local designers, doing work here in our region. People connect with seeing their neighbours in print.

Develop Connections Across the Region

Your head office is just one part of your community, and it is important that you understand the issues and people of importance throughout your region. At Western Living, we have freelance city editors based in every city we write about. They file monthly updates with us about local events, new stores and new people we should be covering and paying attention to. Because we are a design-focused magazine, they will also scout homes for us, and they will attend events on our behalf. We also cultivate relationships with writers across the region who pitch local stories, but having this official, monthly check-in with our city editors keeps us better connected. Bring those writers into your editorial meetings when you can as well—they’ll make the brainstorming process even richer.

Ask, Why Now, Why Us?

One of the toughest decisions as an editor is to turn down a pitch not because it isn’t great, but because it isn’t a great fit with the magazine. This is where both your vision for the publication, and your knowledge of your ideal reader, is all too important. Every story should answer the question, why now—why is this subject or content important to talk about right now, as opposed to last year, or any other time? And it should also answer, why us? Why is this the right fit for your publication—could it better live in a more general interest publication? Does it celebrate or reflect a member of your community that your readers should really get to know? Does it have an angle that only you and your team can properly execute? If it is a no to any of the above, think about what would make it so.

Get Off the Page

Readers want to be feel a part of the brand. Take Garden and Gun for example. Jessica Derrick, their brand development manager, noted that “They just knew that if we were going to write about music, then our readers were going to want to listen to it.” They wrote about Alabama chef Frank Stitt, and then sold out a dinner for 50 people in Birmingham. The magazine starts the conversation, and we as human beings crave the community to discuss and experience it—to live in the world that this magazine has created. These events can be revenue generators for your brand, but they will also get you out in front of your readers and give you another opportunity to know who they are and what stories would connect with them.

Finally, Map out Your Yearly Calendar

Once you have narrowed in on topics that have local resonance, give your editorial team, your readers and your advertisers plenty of advance warning. Your readers (and when they will want to read about certain topics) are your priority, but do not forget to check in with your advertising team for times of year that certain content is helpful for them. If you’re planning to do an annual package celebrating the Top 40 Foodies in your region, check in with the sales team to see if there are healthier advertising budgets for restaurants, suppliers, markets, etc. at certain times of the year.


Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage  Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Creates / Ontario Créatif

Content:

The Facts: Magazine Media Tells and Sells by Linda Thomas Brooks

By Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media.

I am often asked, “If advertising in magazines is still proven to be more effective than other media, provides a brand safe environment with trusted, credible, fact-checked content and reaches larger audiences than even television, why aren’t marketers reflecting that in their media mixes?”

My answer, “Beats me.”

Maybe somewhere there is a study on human nature that explains why people have a tendency to pick the latest fad over the tried and true. I, however, have always had a preference for choosing the option with the greatest likelihood of success.

With that in mind, MPA has collected outside, industry-accepted research that speaks to how and why magazine media works.

FACT: Consumers Invite Magazines into Their Homes

Consumers’ relationship with magazines generally begins with the customer reaching out and saying, “Here is my name. Here is my home address. Here is my credit card information.” That is different than every other media channel. When you think about all third-party data appends and cookie data, they don’t really know who you are. Instead, they can geo-locate you. They can ping you with a Starbucks message even if you aren’t a coffee drinker. They can intercept you and interrupt you.

As a customer reading a magazine, I understand the advertising. I like the advertising. The advertising is part of the experience. It is not an annoyance. The magazine is an invited guest, and the advertiser is welcome as a “plus one.” This is validated in Simmons Multi-Media Engagement Study, where attributes like “ads fit well with the content” and “has ads about things I care about” are highest for magazines.

FACT: Paper-Based Reading is More Effective

MPA looked at a compilation of outside research done by more than 100 neuroscientists, learning psychologists and cognitive psychologists to understand how people interact with print. What did we find? People process print content with greater focus of attention and with much more intense emotional reverberations than the screen format.

Scientists concluded through eye tracking, comprehension testing and FMRI machines that subjects had less distraction when reading on paper. Paper-based reading also has impact due to the additional sensory involvement—the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper and the sound of turning the sheet.

When subjects were tested while reading paper-based formats, they had higher comprehension and recall. They spend more time with printed pieces and at slower reading speeds, which stimulates emotions and desires. That emotional impact is very important to advertisers because a lot of advertising leans on emotional triggers.

The scientists also looked at preferred reading methods for what they call robust reading—really wanting to understand core material. All adult age groups, including millennials, favoured paper-based reading.

Why does all this matter to advertisers? If you are putting an ad out there, you want to know if your target audience saw it, paid attention to it, understood it and will remember it. All of those things are elevated with paper-based reading.

FACT: Print Boosts the Effectiveness of Cross-Platform Campaigns

Any strategic communications planner knows that when you add a media channel your numbers go up. According to Millward Brown, the single best channel to increase all upper and lower funnel metrics is magazines. The Millward Brown study compiled over 150 client studies in four categories—CPG, Auto, Entertainment and Financial Services—and looked at mixtures of media. They found that when print media is in the mix, critical KPIs go up the most.

Adding print is the best way to build awareness and consideration as well as move brand favourability and purchase intent. For example, the Millward Brown research shows that you get a 17% lift on purchase intent when you have print working in your media mix.

Understanding consumer journeys can be complicated, but the idea is always the same: You can’t harvest people at the bottom of the funnel, if you don’t put them at the top of the funnel first. The single best way to move both upper and lower-funnel metrics is to have print in a campaign.

FACT: Magazines Have the Highest Return on Ad Spend

When clients say “I already have high awareness and consideration, I just need to move some product,” I say, “Magazines are the best place to drive sales.”

Nielsen Catalina did a roll up of over 1,400 client studies that they had conducted over a year. They looked at their key metric, Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), which measures what you get back for every dollar you put in the marketplace. Magazines delivered a $3.94 return on every $1. The next highest, digital display, trails by more than $1.30 at $2.63.

For clients who already have high awareness and consideration, Neilson Catalina found that high frequency of use and high awareness brands have a much higher frequency of return on their spending in magazine media, a whopping $5.94. Those are the brands that have the highest return on their media spending and should be leveraging print.

FACT: Magazine Media Offers the Only Industry-Wide Sales Guarantee

About eight years ago, Meredith Corporation did research using Nielsen Catalina for CPG products to look at the results of a specific ad campaign. They boldly promised that if a qualifying campaign does not demonstrate positive ROI, advertisers can have their money back.

Meredith made their methodology available to any other MPA member publisher who could participate, and more than 80 campaigns have offered the guarantee. Some of those were print only and some of those have been multi-format campaigns.

Any guesses on how many times the guarantee worked? How many times clients got a positive ROI? Every. Single. Time. No other media offers an advertising guarantee. What does that tell you?

FACT: Magazine Media is Powerful Across Platforms

Not only is magazine media more engaging thanks to its paper format, even digital readers average 50 minutes with each issue. On social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—magazine companies are the number one brands and they elicit more engagement than non-magazine brands.

When you look at magazine media audience across all platforms—Print, Digital, Web, Mobile and Video—magazines have enormous reach: 1.8 billion to be exact.

People enjoy print; better yet, consumers are adding other magazine media platforms while still enjoying that tangible copy. If audiences are engaged across platforms, why aren’t marketers?


Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage  Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Creates / Ontario Créatif