Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tesco proves that retailers should be publishers

Tesco’s magazine has overtaken The Sun as the most read print title in the UK, proving that retail brands can become publishers in their own right.

The bi-monthly publication has grown its readership to 7.2m, according to the NRS. By contrast The Sun has a readership of 7.1m.

The retailer’s investment in content is a smart move, and it isn’t alone. Asda’s magazine has 6m readers. The M&S magazine has 3.7m readers. Sainsbury’s has 3.4m readers. 

By contrast, the biggest newsstand print magazine is What’s On TV, with 2.2m readers.
This tells us what we already know: original, quality content is king. I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times, but try to avoid growing tired of it.


Tesco vs The Sun

While the stats are impressive, a touch a caution is required. As Roy Greenslade writes in The Guardian, "beware of comparing apples and pears". 

While Tesco magazine does have 7.2m readers, it is only published every two months, while The Sun, of course, is published daily and therefore reaches a larger audience overall. 

Moreover, Greenslade also points out that the tabloid enjoys a greater reader engagement. People spend an average of 29 minutes with The Sun and 16 minutes reading the Tesco mag. How much of the former is spent on page three is unclear... 

This does not detract from Tesco though, or the value of the content for retailers. Investment in this area is definitely the future. 

Audiences, not customers

I like the way that retail brands are thinking about appealing to ‘audiences’, as opposed to ‘customers’ or ‘prospects’. 

Many of these magazines are of course full of commercially-aligned content. For example, the recipes in the Sainsbury’s magazine are there to help convince you to buy the ingredients from its stores, or website. But make no mistake: these are not catalogues, where the focus is all about the products. 

The best own-brand magazines mirror the best non-brand magazines, in that they are there to inform, entertain and inspire readers.

Why? Because the smartest retailers really understand content, and in some cases they are light years ahead of their publisher counterparts with regards to optimising their content for devices like mobiles and tablets.

Take Net-A-Porter, which clearly takes its content operation very seriously. So much so that it hired Harper’s Bazaar editor Lucy Yeomans earlier this year, to become its editor-in-chief, overseeing its various publications.  

These include an own-brand magazine, tablet and mobile apps, and its website, which are read by “over 3.5m woman” according to Yeomans.
Other e-commerce pureplays have invested in magazines to extend their brand in an offline environment. 

ASOS ramped up its investment in content five years ago, after deciding to ditch its affiliates, a move that caused ripples (ASOS CEO Nick Robertson described affiliates as “grubby”) but which has turned out to be an inspired move.

It initially focused on magazine advertising, in the likes of Grazia, before launching its own magazine.

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