Magazines: maximizing effectiveness

In this special report, reporter David Chilton looks at some recent efforts by magazine publishers to add value to their core product.As well, we asked a dozen publishers to personify their products Ñ to describe their magazines as though they were...

In this special report, reporter David Chilton looks at some recent efforts by magazine publishers to add value to their core product.

As well, we asked a dozen publishers to personify their products Ñ to describe their magazines as though they were people – in an attempt to add some dimension to number-heavy readership profiles.

We left the format of these profiles entirely up to the writers, but suggested the stories should touch on their commercial habits, their likes, their dislikes, their beliefs and values.

Submissions range from a response to a personal ad to a ‘spy’s’ report on a ‘subversive’ organization. The report continues to page 30.

Publishers working hard to add value

Rumors the economy is picking up have about as much plausibility as those tabloid reports that Elvis is alive and working as a housepainter in Cut ‘n’ Shoot, Tex.

So given the precarious state of the country’s finances, and advertisers seeking a greater return on their dollar, it is small wonder magazine publishers have worked overtime to add value to their publications.

Of course, some of the moves they have made to add value to their books are fairly commonplace and thus predictable.

Broken new ground

Other initiatives, however, have broken new ground.

So, although it is perhaps too soon to offer up empirical evidence that what they have done is pleasing to advertisers and has prompted them to spend more, intuition dictates those publishers who have added appreciable value to their magazines are on to something – or will, at least, weather the current frigid spell.

Beverly Topping, the businesswoman who bought Great Expectations magazine nine-and-a-half years ago, is obviously a believer in adding value to her core product.

Since that purchase nearly a decade ago, Topping, now the president and chief executive officer of Today’s Parent Group, has overseen the growth of her company – Maclean Hunter has a minority interest – to the point where its numerous titles including Great Expectations, Your Baby and Today’s Parent cover the time from early pregnancy to the middle school years.

Topping says the company also handles a grandparenting magazine ‘that is mostly for first-timers, but also for other parents to hand to their parents to let them know [what's going on] and to bring them into the process.’

She says the magazines offer tie-ins on couponing, hospital gift packs to new mothers, a direct marketing book club for children, a newsletter for health professionals who influence new parents, and more.

And, says Emery, the company has the largest database of Canadian families anywhere with 1.5 million names in it.

Also in the works for Today’s Parent magazine are spin-offs on tv and radio.

Topping says the tv program will air on ytv, the young people’s specialty cable service, and the radio show will be syndicated across the country.

Next spring

Both programs are due to begin next spring, she says.

To add value to one – or more – of her titles, Topping says she goes directly to the client and finds out what is wanted.

‘We go to a client and find out what their specific marketing needs are, and then we’ll put together an integrated marketing program that would encompass all of these elements or some of these elements.

‘We’re not actually talking any more about throwing in bells and whistles. We’re now talking about making all aspects of the plan work together, and the best way we’ve found to do that is to make sure we have a larger number of related products that can work together.’

Parents Show

Topping says to further beef up the clout of Today’s Parent Group magazines, the company puts on The Parents Show in Toronto in the fall.

And as well as the usual commercial aspects of such a show, there are seminars on topics such as street proofing, discipline, breastfeeding and dealing with anger at two or 42 for the attendees.

Periodically, Today’s Parent will run a special supplement, Topping says.

And, she says, holding up a recent issue of Maclean’s magazine, the latest supplement – on education – has been inserted in another delivery vehicle.

If Today’s Parent Group ‘saturates’ the prenatal to Grade 7 market, then it could be said the Ricky McMountain Buyer’s Guide saturates the Toronto cma, with 700,000 mailed copies.

And that, says Ricky McMountain’s alter ego, Richard Hirtle, publisher of the guide, is an added value for advertisers right there because it gives advertisers the critical reach they need.

Hirtle says a further added value for Buyer’s Guide advertisers is the reputation of the magazine.

He says before any firm can advertise in his home care/improvement publication it has to pass a tough credibility test to ensure customers reached by the magazine are well looked after.

Everyone laughed

e says at first, everyone laughed, recalling the time when he started the book in 1986, but now no one does.

To check the reputation of a would-be advertiser, the Buyer’s Guide selects 50 invoices the firm has sent to customers, then calls at least 25 of them to check what they think of the work that was done for them.

The goal, Hirtle says, is keeping the customer happy and keeping the cash register ringing.

Backing Hirtle up electronically is his ‘talking computer.’

What the machine does, he says, is provide a 24-hour-a-day message centre for readers who want information on an advertisement they have seen.

Hirtle says after looking over the ad, readers can call in, listen to more information about the advertiser, then leave a message if they want.

The interactive phone service, says Hirtle, takes about 35,000 calls a year, although the number is down slightly because of the economy.

Donald Swinburne, the publisher at Family Communications in Toronto, takes pretty much the same tack as Topping when it comes to creating for his advertisers additional leverage with his readers.

Swinburne says publishers have to think of themselves as full-service companies, able to create ads, develop special sections or even separate publications to meet advertisers’ objectives.

Taking his own advice, Swinburne notes one of his titles, you magazine, has teamed up with the French language title, Sante, to deliver 477,000 readers at a cpm of $19.70.

That link, he says, should help attract more national advertisers for Sante, secures for you an improved cpm, and gives advertisers national coverage in two well-read magazines at an attractive rate.

Elsewhere among Family Communications titles, Swinburne says several strategic alliances have been struck to promote greater value for advertisers.

For example, Canadian Home Style magazine and Family Communications’ Today’s Bride struck a two-for-one deal in the housewares market, he says.

If an advertiser buys a page in Today’s Bride at the regular rate of $9,698, he gets a free page – worth $3,135 – in Canadian Home Style, a trade magazine.

This particular agreement, Swinburne notes, has run successfully for two years.

Today’s Bride has a similar deal with Hotelier magazine that is perfect for flatware or tableware advertisers with commercial and consumer lines, Swinburne says.

One more strategic alliance is Today’s Bride’s new arrangement with Toronto-based Trillium Communications to produce and market a bridal television show.

The tv show, Swinburne says, can be bought with the magazine or by itself, although there is a discount if advertisers want to buy both mediums.

Like Today’s Bride, Wedding Bells magazine has also aggressively pursued an added value strategy for its advertisers.

Marc Gagnon, director of marketing for the twice-a-year publication, says it has always been very promotion-oriented and over the last three years Wedding Bells has become more tailored to advertisers’ needs.

Gagnon says one way the magazine has boosted its advertisers’ presence is a deal struck with Baxter Publishing to carry the honeymoon travel section from Wedding Bells in its trade publication, Canadian Travel Press.

Another, he goes on, is a move which allows bridal gown retailers – a large part of his advertiser clientele – to keep up with what bridal gown manufacturers are producing and which they will have to sell.

Gagnon says Wedding Bells will ‘pre-print’ its fashion sections and mail them to retailers, allowing them to prepare for when manufacturers start shipping.

One of the most common value-added practices is sampling, whether it is chewing gum handed out at a baseball game or, in Wedding Bells’ case, items its readers can slip into their purses.

Wedding Bells goes to more than 30 bridal trade shows across the country every year, says Gagnon, and can offer sampling for its advertisers at any of them depending on the advertiser category, of course.

He points to a deodorant sampling and a slimming product sampling as two efforts that worked well.

One further way Wedding Bells – majority owned by Key Publishers in Toronto – raises the profile of its advertisers is its considerable involvement in the Canadian Bridal Association market week, offering more sampling opportunities and such things as prize gift baskets on behalf of its advertisers.

As one might expect, Canadian Geographic, the magazine of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, does not offer advertisers sampling in the usual sense of the practice.

Samples of itself

nstead, it provides what might be called ‘samples of itself’ because the society’s Letters Patent state its objective is ‘the advancement of geographical knowledge and, in particular, the general diffusion of information on Canadian geography.’

Susanne Hudson, publisher of Canadian Geographic, points to one of these, the society’s 1992 sponsorship of a team to climb Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada.

Other samples of itself the society uses to add value to its core product are annual lecture series, an annual awards program, a research grants program, and more.

The society actively seeks sponsors, and points out corporate sponsors’ support is profiled in Canadian Geographic to its 1.4 million readers and in other society program material.

Adding more value to Canadian Geographic is its catalogue of items for sale, which helps provide funds for its various programs.

The society’s winter catalogue – at 40 pages the largest yet – offers such things as books, maple syrup, clothing, jewellery, bird feeders and videos.

Generally regarded as one of the best, if not the best city magazine in country, Toronto Life is not one to recline on its editorial laurels and say to advertisers its writers give the book all the value they will ever need.

Enhance value

ather, the magazine has immersed itself in a number of projects that enhance the value of the publication, which underwent a fairly extensive retooling with new editor John Macfarlane at the start of the year.

Alix Johnston, assistant to the publisher at Toronto Life, notes the magazine is involved in a number of trade shows around the city, providing a useful market for subscription sales, but, also, and more importantly, increasing the book’s visibility and, at the same time, offering advertisers value-added opportunities.

This past May, Toronto Life took part in the Good Food Festival held in Toronto at the Canadian National Exhibition’s Automotive Building.

At the Toronto Life booth, visitors could sample the cooking of some of the top chefs in the city, and one of the magazine’s clients, Naya Water, used the booth to sample its product.

Two other shows in which Toronto Life has been successful are The Christmas Craft Show and The Spring Craft Show, both again at the cne.

Visitors to the Toronto Life booth are asked to fill out a ballot to enter a draw.

The prize for the contest is always donated by one of the magazine’s advertisers in exchange for promotional opportunities at the show such as a poster display or brochure distribution.

And, within three months, advertisers who donated their products as contest prizes at either show are named in a one-third page black-and-white house ad thanking them on behalf of Toronto Life.

One of Toronto Life’s most successful ventures on behalf of the magazine and its clients is Kidsummer, 64 days of entertainment and education for children and their parents that ran this year from June 26 to Aug. 28.

Toronto Life helped start Kidsummer in 1987 and attracted 25,000 people. By 1992, that number had jumped more than threefold with attendance at more than 80,000.

Now, the sponsors of the event include some of the better-known names in the city.

Presenting sponsors this year were Toronto Life, chfi-fm, CBC Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission and GO Transit, the suburban Toronto commuter service.

Corporate sponsors were Brita Water Filter Systems, Imperial Oil, Jumbo Video, Burger King Canada, Family Channel and Ontario Hydro.

Visitors could pick up a calendar of events with their July copy of Toronto Life or listen to chfi or watch cbc-tv for information updates.

The Toronto Star also ran daily event listings, and Esso gas stations, Jumbo Video stores and Burger King restaurants each carried copies of the calendar.

Of course, not every move magazines make is unalloyed commerce.

Canadian Living has branched out into charitable efforts, by setting up the Canadian Living Foundation for Families.

The foundation was officially incorporated in June 1992 and its immediate objective was to sponsor children’s nutrition programs across the country.

Canadian Living’s management group, Telemedia Communications, provided the magazine with the necessary funds to operate the foundation, which has picked up considerable press attention.

Canadian Living’s editor-in-chief, Bonnie Baker Cowan, says the magazine has often considered sponsoring a charity, but, based on information about child poverty in Canada, decided to consider starting a charitable foundation of its own.

Since its founding, the foundation has funded 23 nutrition programs that have aided more than 1,000 families, and through its nutrition education program 568 groups have received assistance across the country to start or enhance nutrition programs in their communities.

Baker Cowan admits the foundation cannot fix the economy or speed up its recovery, but says it can do something to help Canadian children have a better chance at a secure future.

And even Elvis – wherever he is – would not balk at that.