Customer titles explore online engagement

As more brands move the readers of their print magazines down a digital route by providing exclusive online content, Jo Roberts asks if the writing is on the wall for hard copy titles.


Witch and werewolf costumes for children and trick or treat food for parties are promoted in the latest print edition of Your M&S magazine. But if parents want something extra for their Halloween-themed celebrations then they need to take a look at the department store’s first ezine, which has a selection of scary masks that can be downloaded, printed and then cut out.

Moving readers from print to digital helps brands to carry on the conversation with their target audience as well as adding another dimension to the content. But using print to convert readers to their digital customer publishing offering is something that many brands are failing to capitalise on, according to research by fast.MAP that has been seen exclusively by Marketing Week.

Although branded titles are received by almost 50% of those questioned by the research company, and in some cases read almost 100% of the time, many who are reading the print title aren’t looking at the digital version, observes fast.MAP managing director David Cole. He says: “Customer magazines have very high readership levels sometimes 100%, but crossover readership between digital and print versions is relatively low; meaning people who receive and read a magazine in print seldom bother to check out the online version.”

For example, 55% of those who receive Tesco’s print magazine say they read it, but only 3% then look at the digital site. Similarly, 92% of recipients read Ikea Family Life, but just 10% look at the digital offering.

But is it so important that those who choose to curl up on the sofa to read a branded mag aren’t tapping into the digital offering?

It depends on the brand’s objectives, argues Julia Hutchison, chief operating officer from the Association of Publishing Agencies. “Brands have to think about the appropriate medium in which to produce content for their audience,” she says. Print can be effective at driving people online but for certain brands perhaps the most appropriate customer journey might be to read the magazine and then visit the store, she adds.


Mike Burgess, digital development director at Seven, which publishes magazines for Lloyds, M&S and Wembley Stadium among others, advises that to get real benefits from a print and digital version of a magazine, content shouldn’t be “duplicated”.

For Michelle Pamment, editor of Your M&S, providing readers with the option of a print title and digital version has a number of benefits. “People enjoy sitting down with the print title and having a bit of ’me time’ but the ezine enables us to extend ideas from the print magazine and show content in a different way,” she says. In the current issue of the magazine, there is a feature about current TV ad The Date, but the ezine has a video showing behind-the-scenes footage of the new campaign. Throughout the print edition, readers are encouraged to go online to find out more.

Commercially, there are benefits to providing customers with an ezine. If readers like the editor’s choices shown on the M&S magazine pages, they can click straight through to the online store and buy. This also makes the customer journey from the magazine to store instantly trackable.

Most of the brands that River Group publishes, such as Walk magazine for The Ramblers previously The Ramblers Association have online and offline versions. Chief executive for River Group Nicola Murphy says both have an important role to play to ensure consumers stay in touch with brands. “Magazines are very tangible, people tend to spend a lot of time reading a print title, but online allows people to keep in touch with a brand more frequently as there is a sense of community.”

The print title carries features that appeal to a wide range of walkers and also allows the charity space to highlight campaigns and issues that are important to the cause. The digital content has more of a community feel, with maps, blogs, polls and a link to Flickr, where walkers can share photographs. The magazine comes out quarterly but the digital presence allows The Ramblers to provide its members with rolling news. Tony Hall, director of marketing and communications at The Ramblers, says that all of its advertisers expect an online presence.

While extending the conversation is important for many brands, Standard Life uses the print version of MoneyPlus magazine, published by WPP’s Forward, for branding and the online magazine for educating. The recently launched financial education section of the website is more of a “how to” guide to finance, providing tools and calculators to help potential customers find out what products and services suit their needs, while the printed magazine features content on the latest financial issues to help build up trust in the financial services brand.

Jayne Currie, editorial content manager at Standard Life, explains: “Our aim is to help consumers learn more about financial products and their own financial needs. We therefore make sure that our online content supports them with useful tools, calculators and case studies, so they feel more informed and better prepared for the financial decisions they need to make.”


Education is the aim of both the print and digital side of Healthy, a title published by River Group for Holland & Barrett. Phil Geary, group marketing director at NBTY Europe, which owns Holland & Barrett, says the paid-for magazine serves as an important communication tool for the business. “The industry is heavily regulated so we can’t, for example, advertise the benefits of evening primrose oil in store but an expert can write about it in the magazine,” he says.

However, the digital side of Healthy is not as important as the printed magazine, says Geary. At the moment there’s no deliberate attempt to push customers from the print title to the digital version because the magazine is sold as the UK’s leading health magazine at £1.75, whereas the website is free to access.

Although Healthy magazine largely keeps the Holland & Barrett name out of the magazine, it does provide coupons for customers to redeem in store, which helps to track the success of the print title. Geary says the 15% conversion rate demonstrates how effective the magazine is at getting customers to go from reading about health products to buying them from his stores.

To extend the brand’s reach, Geary has been working with companies that have similar audiences but are not direct competitors, such as clothing retailer Bonmarché. He believes there is a “huge opportunity” to extend Holland & Barrett’s reach by collaborating with other brands to provide mutually beneficial offers to each other’s customers.

This is something that fast.MAP has identified as something brands could be doing more of within the world of customer publishing. Of those who read the printed version of Tesco magazine, 27% also read Jaguar’s print edition and 52% of those people are looking at the car brand’s online version, according to the research (See Figure Focus, below). Similarly, Saga magazine and National Trust magazine have very similar readers, with 74% of those reading Saga features in print also looking at the National Trust’s magazine online.

Collaboration is something that cinema brands Empire, Apollo and Showcase are taking advantage of to share content and costs. They have clubbed together to publish the bi-monthly Escape magazine, produced by Summersault Communications.

Professional services provider Ernst & Young, meanwhile, has been taking advantage of shared readership by promoting its Performance Journal with Preview Performance magazine, published by Wardour and issued within The Economist. Both appeal to a high-level business audience and this particular collaboration has seen a 10-fold increase in visitors to its portal (see Q&A, below).

The firm is deliberately using a print title to drive traffic to its portal and also to encourage people to sign up to the hardback journal. Rudolf Boehlke, EMEIA advisory marketing and communication director at Ernst & Young, has identified a generational behaviour difference, with the older business executive more likely to sign up to the journal and the younger professional more likely to use the online portal to look at the latest articles.

And Nicki Hill, board account director at Redwood, says that’s exactly how brands should be approaching content. She believes that marketers shouldn’t approach content by channel but instead look at who the customer is and the customer journey. “Consumers digest different content at different times of the day and the challenge is to be where that consumer wants you to be.”

Honda’s head of European marketing, Ian Armstrong, agrees, but warns that digital should not be seen as the preferred method of communication just because it’s new and exciting. Rather than using print and digital, Honda is concentrating on providing its print title Dream, published by River Group, to fans of the brand. It has scaled back its digital efforts for financial reasons and Armstrong believes that the print title is able to do the job of communicating the brand’s philosophy, as well as providing more practical information about Honda’s products.

He says: “It’s a foolish marketer who says digital is the only way to communicate. You need to ensure that the communication method is appropriate to the message.”

Gail Franks, Managing director of Summersault Communications, publisher of cinema magazine Escape


The cinema industry is fairly small in the UK. Everybody knows everyone. Although initially we published a magazine with Empire cinema chain, three brands are now involved in Escape magazine.

Competitor cinema brands Apollo and Showcase sat around the table with Empire to collaborate on a magazine that suits everyone’s needs. It’s fairly unusual to get three competitor brands to work together but the industry is quite unique. All three brands show similar films at similar times in the year but Apollo, Empire and Showcase cinemas operate in different areas of the UK, so there is very little clash.

Each brand has 100,000 issues printed and they are distributed at each of the cinemas. The magazine is then personalised for each cinema chain, so while some of the content is shared, Apollo, Empire and Showcase each get their own pages so they can have unique content in their copies of the magazine that is relevant to them. Each brand, for example, has its own in-house advert to communicate different offers they provide such as cinema clubs.

The magazine is bi-monthly, so we sit down together once every two months to decide on an editorial plan. It works because there’s not a long drawn out sign-off process like there is with some publications. The leading marketers from each brand are involved directly so decisions can be made and signed off quickly.

We are in talks about the digital side to see if Escape could work as a sub-brand online. However, these discussions are a little complicated because each cinema chain has its own website. An app might be a possible way to extend the Escape brand. While the cinema industry is unique there must be other brands out there where this type of collaboration could work.

Figure focus

20% of those who read Saga’s printed magazine also read the National Trust’s printed product, and 74% read the National Trust’s magazine website.

76% of the people who read Sky Movies online also look at Jaguar’s magazine online.

39% of those who read Sony’s online magazine also go to Toyota’s magazine website.

37% of those who read Tesco’s printed magazine also look at Waitrose Food Illustrated online.

Brand in the spotlight

Rudolf Boehlke, EMEIA advisory marketing and communication director, Ernst&Young


Marketing Week (MW): Why do you publish a quarterly journal?

Rudolf Boehlke (RB): There is a consulting side to our business with more than 20,000 colleagues but many people are unaware of this. We have a Global Performance ThinkTank Programme (GPTP), which demonstrates our expertise in business performance. The hardback journal and our portal is part of GPTP and includes articles from academics and syndicated articles from The Economist on the latest thinking and issues around business.

Traditionally we have used push marketing to promote the journal, by showing it to clients, but our latest campaign in partnership with The Economist is more pull-push, using mass media to drive traffic to the portal.

MW: Why have you decided to run a preview to your Performance journal in The Economist?

RB: For a few reasons. The number of people visiting the portal did not meet expectations and we also want more C-suite professionals to sign up to our journal. Performance Preview, which is published with The Economist, is a teaser to that journal, advertising what articles are available on our portal and journal. Two weeks before the publication of Performance Preview, we published the abstract of the article, encouraging people to go online to our portal to read the full article.

MW: The first Performance Preview came out in May. What results have you seen?

RB: Performance Preview was distributed in 250,000 issues of The Economist across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, covering 90 countries. Visits to our website have increased 10-fold. Visitors to the site are coming back, on average, three or four times a month, showing that they are using it as a resource.

MW: The next issue of Performance Preview has just gone to print. Do you hope that it will continue to increase visits to the portal or increase subscriptions to the journal?

RB: Both. The articles are aimed at C-suite executives and at the moment we tend to find that the younger generation prefers the portal whereas the older generation prefers the journal. We are working on an app which we aim to have available early next year. This might allow, say, a graph in an article to be brought to life through a video demonstration, for example.



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