News Analysis: Contract Titles Eye Retail Routes

Article excerpt

Customer publishers see complementary audiences and cost savings on the high street. Robert Gray reports.

The launch in spring 2005 of quarterly parenting magazine Your Family is eagerly anticipated by its proud parents. Unusually, the glossy offspring will have three parents eager to see it thrive.

First, and foremost, is client charity the NSPCC, whose objective in this case is to provide parents with advice on bringing up their kids.

Second, there is customer publishing agency Redwood, responsible for editorial content and advertising sales. Finally, there is retailer Woolworths, which will distribute the 800,000 print-run magazine free through 400 of its stores.

Woolworths will be given on-cover branding and an editorial page in each issue promoting products aimed at families - a vital target group for the chain.

Brands have co-operated to produce shared-customer magazines in the past - notably Kimberly-Clark, Unilever and Cadbury Trebor Bassett with Voila!, which was axed two-and-a-half years ago - but in linking with a major third-party retail partner to distribute the title, the NSPCC and Redwood are entering pioneering territory.

Only a few contract magazines have been able to call on their brand strength to carve niches for themselves in paid-for newsstand distribution. Sainsbury's Magazine, Waitrose Food Illustrated and Classic FM are among the best examples. But Your Family will be given away to secure as high a readership as possible.

Adding value

Woolworths' involvement goes beyond pure corporate social responsibility and touches on cause-related marketing. Redwood head of planning Kevin Sutherland says Woolworths shoppers will get something of 'genuine value' that they will recognise as having the backing of the retailer.

NSPCC head of brand marketing Chris Greenwood is enthusiastic about the distribution channel. He says the Woolworths environment is a 'good fit' with the magazine's key messages. 'Our magazine is about parents communicating and getting the best out of their relationship with their kids, and Woolworths is visited by so many mums and dads with their children.'

Distribution channels are a hot issue for the customer publishing industry.

Clients want cost-effective routes to market for their magazines and the cost of postage is making many think twice about using direct mail.

Cedar managing director Jules Rastelli points out that postage 'can account for 25%-40% of the costs of a customer magazine'. He says that while the NSPCC has 'got its act together fastest', he knows of other charity clients that are thinking of forging partnerships enabling them to distribute their magazines effectively. …