Magazine article Marketing

Counting on Contracts

Magazine article Marketing

Counting on Contracts

Article excerpt

Customer titles are attracting ads but face difficulty with circulation auditing.

Pick up a copy of London Magazine, or High Life, or Euphoria. If you didn't know better, any one of them could be a consumer monthly title: high-quality paper, glossy cover, pictures that could grace the pages of Marie Claire, Elle or GQ.

And there's something else which looks familiar to magazine readers. The adverts.

Over the past few years, as clients have put money into customer magazines, a growing number of third-party advertisers have recognised them as a viable medium. No longer bad-quality pamphlets produced in-house, they are a valuable marketing tool, offering a targeted readership.

Craig Waller, managing director of contract publisher Premier Magazines, says: "We have had record advertising levels in 1996 for many of our titles, including High Life. Our titles took a substantial amount of advertising revenue. Media buyers are now much more open to different media. You have to be a lot more open-minded as a planner these days."

But prejudices still exist. Trevor Foley, client services director at contract publisher TDS Inform, says: "I think it is fair to say that customer magazines are not regarded very highly by media planners."

One way in which contract publishers are aiming to be taken more seriously by media planners is by having their titles certified by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC). In consumer and trade-press magazines, the ABC certificate is verification to an advertiser that a title's circulation is exactly what the publisher claims it to be.

Yet even the ABC seems to have mixed views on customer magazines. "I'm a bit confused about it," admits Waller. "The ABC has been blowing hot and cold. I got so hacked off trying to get the ABC to give us a certificate."

Waller went to the BPA, the American equivalent of the ABC. "They were professional and helpful and had us certified within 18 months. The attitude to customer magazines in the US is very different. Some of our titles are ABC-certified, but they are in the mainstream, like the Chartered Institute of Marketing one."

Other publishers have a more positive view. Trevor Foley who, until November 1996 was a sales and marketing director at ABC, says: "The ABC has introduced Maintained Free Distribution (MFD). The publishers and advertisers are coming up with a modelling technique for proving distribution. It is to the credit of customer title publishers that they wanted to be the same as other magazines."

However, Waller is suspicious of the ABC's efforts to introduce special techniques for contract magazines. He says: "The way I see it is that this is an action by the established newsstand publishers to put customer magazines into a separate box so that they don't confuse the market place. But they now have a wider circulation because they are being put out by big corporations, and that worries the hell out of newsstand magazine publishers."

In defence of the ABC, it is not always easy to verify the circulation of a magazine which, for example, is left in the back of airline seats. Do you calculate the copies taken away, or the number left?

River Publishing wants an ABC certificate for the magazine it produces for Asda. But the title is sent from the printers to distribution centres and on to stores, leaving the ABC to deal with 200 outlets. "This is proving very difficult," says River's advertising director, Richard Beatty. …

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