Special Report: The Positioning of Magazines: Focus groups, studies help

In this report, the editors of a half-dozen consumer magazines - Clin D'Oeil, Cottage Life, Saturday Night, Shift, Toronto Life and TV Guide - explain what they are doing to better understand their readers and how they are positioning their product...

In this report, the editors of a half-dozen consumer magazines – Clin D’Oeil, Cottage Life, Saturday Night, Shift, Toronto Life and TV Guide – explain what they are doing to better understand their readers and how they are positioning their product against other media.

As well, reporter David Chilton looks at the effect on the Canadian magazine industry of proposed decreases in postal rate subsidies.

Dominique Bertrand

Clin D’Oeil

Q. What methods do you use to identify and understand your readership?

A. We have focus groups, but also, as an editor, I really try to be close to my readers.

I don’t miss any chance I get to meet them personally.

Q. How do you stay relevant to your readers?

A. I’ve been with the magazine three years now and the first thing I changed when I came to Clin D’Oeil was including more [articles].

People like to read – they like to sit there in their living room and take at least two hours to go through a magazine.

Because of the focus groups and studies that we’ve done, I know what readers’ main preoccupations are.

I know they’re concerned with ‘couple’ matters – sex, love, friendship – and family matters. I also know they have a very big concern about health.

Of course, beauty and fashion are the most important features in our magazine, but I’m not just giving readers something to look at when I’m covering fashion.

I’m writing an article about it. I’m giving them something to understand – where it comes from, who is doing it, why it is interesting or why we judge that it is not interesting.

You have to be changing all the time. Even if you don’t change the look of your magazine, you have to be constantly changing.

Q. What characteristics must an effective editor possess to ensure relevant editorial content?

A. It’s different for every magazine but for myself, it’s being innovative.

I don’t want to give [our readers] just a normal magazine, an okay magazine.

I want to attract their attention on the newsstand – so I have shocking covers, and cover shocking issues.

I know they are ready for it because every time we’ve done it, we’re sold out.

Our May issue last year featured eight naked women on the cover.

It wasn’t a fashion thing, it was about why do women not like their bodies. We had a survey that said 85% of women in Quebec don’t like their bodies.

So each time we do something very shocking it is always justified by the content. It’s never gratuitous.

Q. What manner of input or guidance do you get from publishers and salespeople in determining the editorial direction of the magazine?

A. It’s teamwork.

My bosses and I work together toward the same target.

It’s the same with the [advertising sales] department.

We’re trying to please our readers, of course, but we are also trying to please our advertisers.

It’s very important for us because it’s a two-way business. Advertisers support us. Without them, we can’t do anything. And they need us to advertise their product.

In most magazines, there’s a kind of war between the [advertising] department and the editorial department. This is one thing I changed when I came here. There is a way to do it and make it work.

Nobody forces me to put something in the magazine. I’m the one who decides the content of the magazine.

But I’m always working it in a way that everyone is happy.

I’m really trying to think about the reader – the boss is the reader first – and then I’m trying to think of the advertiser.

They [make] the product. They are what people are looking for when they are going to shop.

Without them, there is no fashion.