Publishing a Magazine – a year in retrospect

Publishing a Magazine – a year in retrospect

You may remember that APM (Alison Page Marketing) purchased the Berkhamsted and Tring Living Magazine titles from Sandra Boothroyd-Todd in March 2018. Sandra founded them in 2001, so they were already very well established and respected by both readers and advertisers alike.

Over the past year, you might have noticed a number of changes with Living Magazines, although they have been subtle and evolutionary. I have taken some time to look back over the past 18 months and jot down those changes with a timeline for future reference – I hope you will also find this an interesting read.

If you are considering advertising with us, you might find this background information useful and equally, an existing advertiser might be interested in the progress and investment being made in the two publications.

I first met Sandra and David back in 2009 when I started my marketing consultancy and have always recommended that my local clients advertise within the magazines – both to ‘own’ their local market from a brand awareness perspective and to ensure an integrated campaign. So, having known Sandra and David for many years and having lived in both Berkhamsted and Tring, I felt they were too important to lose, too valuable to the communities to fold – we offer so much in terms of news, features, events, essential contacts and much more. I’m passionate about supporting local businesses and maintaining our local high streets, but I also saw an opportunity to round out the magazines digitally.

My gut feel has always been that specialist print, such as these magazines, still has a place both within the hearts and homes of our communities and can still deliver as part of a marketing strategy. This has been borne out, both by our Reader Survey in July 2019 and recent research by Magnetic, the Chartered Institute of Marketing and many more. For example:

  • “58% of magazine readers do not do anything else at the same time as reading compared to websites at 52% and social media down at 35%.” Magnetic
  • “Magazines should still be an important part of the marketing mix – especially for smaller businesses who are looking to pay less for a higher level of attention.” Chartered Institute of Marketing
  • “68% of the UK population (aged 15 and over) consume magazine media across all platforms, 88% of magazine readers believe that reading magazine content is time well spent and 80% trust what they read in their magazines, which shows they have huge engagement with the brands they are consuming.” PAMCo
  • “Neuroscience research has shown that paper advertising is more effective than digital, resulting in better brand recall.” Forbes
  • “81% of people have bought an item or visited a place after reading about it in a magazine.” Magnetic

Initial Objectives

I had three main objectives for a successful first issue in the Summer of 2018:

  1. To ensure the magazines made it out on time – there is zero flexibility with the Royal Mail door to door delivery contract
  2. Make sure they looked pretty similar to the previous issues for continuity – I’m very much an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary!
  3. Swap the paper the magazine is printed on to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) ensuring it is both sustainably and ethically sourced
  4. Ensure the wrap was recyclable

Going Digital

My next task was to design and build a new website to deliver a user friendly and fully responsive online platform with dynamic event pages and daily news – providing regular content in between our quarterly printed magazines. The new website went live in September 2018.

The sheer volume of content being sent to us from local businesses, charities, groups and individuals within the communities, meant that we could also post to our social media channels daily. This in turn has positively impacted on the number of visitors to our website which means that in 2020 it will be viable to offer digital advertising online as well as in the magazines.

The online digital publication has also much improved and although not yet 100% responsive it can be read easily on any mobile device via Issuu – we’re looking at alternatives for the future.

Rate Review V1

Later that year I started reviewing our rate card and we launched in 2019 with a reduced full page rate and reduced double page spread (DPS) rate.

The wider rate review would take more time…

New Look and Feel

A new designer brought a fresh and energetic feel to the magazines in Spring 2019, and the brand really started to develop!

We have been able to retain the local shopping pages in the magazine which continue to be a free service to the local retailers, and popular with our readers.

The website continued to evolve to include competitions, and relationships formed with the DTN (Dacorum Talking Newspaper), Visit Tring and Enjoy Dacorum.

Sadly, despite herculean efforts, there was insufficient interest in our School Report this year and we had to take the painful decision to cut our losses and not continue to print. Hopefully we will see a resurgence of this in future years.

Feedback from our Readers

A discussion on a Facebook group in the summer of 2019 identified that many of our readers were unhappy with our plastic wrap, despite being able to recycle it at larger supermarkets. You can read more on that here. The wrap is necessary to provide our popular leaflet distribution service and, as such, we are committed to finding an alternative, and better solution for 2020, if not before.

Our first Reader Survey was a big hit and we received far better results than we expected which has meant, for the first time in a long time, that we can put together a professional Media Pack to encourage new advertisers for 2020.

We have learnt that:

  • 65% of our readers are female
  • 47% are aged 45+
  • 100% of respondents are loyal and regularly read every issue
  • 85% believe it’s worth paying more money for quality goods – useful information for our advertisers!

e-Newsletter

It is evident that our readers want to hear from us more often, so late this month we will be launching a new monthly e-newsletter to provide continuity between one quarterly printed issue and the next. Every subscriber has personally signed up to receive the e-Newsletter; they live, work and shop in Tring, Berkhamsted or the surrounding villages and are keen to support local events and businesses. As such, we have fully compliant access to a quality list of recipients.

This will also provide new opportunities for digital advertising, alongside our magazine.

Rate Review V2

I have also continued to review the magazine rate card, with a far better understanding of not only our production costs but also what local businesses are prepared to pay.

As a result, the new rate card for 2020 will see a reduction in rates across the board, but also a new discount structure.

  • 76% are repeat advertisers, often signing up for a whole year or more

All of our current customers have been enjoying extensive discounts for many years with the agreed rate remaining the same year on year. Those same customers will be invited to sign up for the full year 2020 based on their existing rates by the end of November 2019 or to wait until January 2020 and absorb the new rates – which might result in them paying slightly more. Equally we have identified a couple of customers who will be paying less in 2020, so a bonus for them!

What’s Next?

It’s been an interesting 18 months to say the least and I, and the Living team, are looking forward to what 2020 will bring!

You can contact the Living team on tel: 01442 824300 or email us at: info@livingmags.info.

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