Quebec weeklies: a different beast

'All national brands are sold locally.' l'Association des Hebdos du Québec (Association of French Weeklies) has been using that slogan for some time in Montreal to convince buyers to use weeklies in national campaigns.

‘All national brands are sold locally.’ l’Association des Hebdos du Québec (Association of French Weeklies) has been using that slogan for some time in Montreal to convince buyers to use weeklies in national campaigns.

Publishers in Quebec, and I suspect elsewhere in Canada, have been griping for years that national buyers are not using weeklies nearly as often as they should. So papers in this province have been working overtime to make weeklies a convenient – and efficient – buy for the client.

The Association, in co-operation with rep houses Sélect and Québecor Ventes Médias (QVM), has invested big time in readership studies to show how popular and well read Quebec weeklies are.

One study in particular, Advertising Efficiency in Weeklies, conducted by respected Montreal research firm Descarie et Complices, was a real eye opener. Door-to-door interviews showed a weekly ad recall rate of more than 30%, which astounded the pollsters because that figure, in Quebec anyway, is comparable to television and radio – further proof that the Quebec market is different from the rest of Canada.

Weeklies as dailies

Everyone knows that on a per-capita basis, Ontario has many more dailies than Quebec. Here in Quebec there are booming cities such as St-Jerome, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (where M. Day learns his French), Drummondville, Joliette, Rimouski and others which, in Ontario, would be large enough to warrant their own dailies. Instead, strong and vibrant weeklies are the dominant media. In fact, according to a CROP study, almost 90% of Quebecers believe that the local weekly is the best source of local news.

Full coverage

Mid-sized cities, as well as many larger urban centers that are only partially covered by dailies, are now fully served by free (controlled-distribution) quality weeklies. Almost 4-million copies are printed every week – that’s more than one per household. Out of more than 180 French weeklies in this province, only five are paid circulation. All offer 100% coverage of any specific area, certainly a great asset in any campaign.

We love colour

The average Quebec-based weekly uses a lot more colour than the average English-Canada weekly. Many publish whole sections in full colour on a regular basis. Over the years, the industry has pressured printers to buy bigger presses with more colour capacity. Transmag, a Transcontinental plant in Montreal, has seven different press lines with many colour options. And a study on advertising efficiency showed that a colour ad has a 23% higher recall rate than a black-and-white one.

A one-stop shop

In this province, the vast majority of national flyers are distributed by Publi-Sac along with a weekly, or directly inside a weekly. Either way the papers are part of a great one-stop shopping proposition. A similar situation exists in many major Canadian markets, but here receiving and reading a weekly and the flyers has become a cultural phenomenon.

Although the weekly industry is dominated by two corporate groups (Québecor Sun Media and Transcontinental), Quebec still has a variety of smaller chains and quality independent publications.

Altogether, through the association and the two rep houses Sélect and QVM, we have improved our efficiency tremendously: Single-bill systems have transferred much clerical work to the rep houses, different formats are down to just three or four, mapping and demographic figures are easily available, research is solid and credible, and digital ad transfer is universal.

On an individual basis, most chains and independents have invested in colour, graphic redesign and editorial content. And most of our papers feature dynamic Web sites; many have daily updates, making the site the only daily source of local news.

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Marc-Noel Ouellette is GM at Transcontinental Weeklies, and president of Réseau Sélect. He can be reached at m.n.o@videotron.ca.