The reader is number one

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Amid the broad spectrum of customer magazines, shop magazines are the clear frontrunners. In terms of readership Tradeka's Me comes right after Aku Ankka and Helsingin Sanomat. "I am proud of the magazine's relationship with its readership," says Editor-in-Chief Jaana Huttunen.


"We have 860,000 readers, making us the seventh biggest magazine in print in Finland," continues Jaana Huttunen, who is also Tradeka's Communications Director.

Me (Us in Finnish) is Tradeka's national loyal-customer magazine, which is mailed to the homes of active members of the YkkösBonus scheme once a month. It can also be picked up from nearby Siwa, Valintatalo or Euromarket shops. In concrete terms being an active member means that, if a customer does not use his or her bonus card for three months, delivery of the magazine stops.

The concept behind Me is to be a general, i.e. a "proper", magazine. Its slogan is Hyvä ote arkeen (a good grip on the everyday), which is a good description of the magazine's purpose and content. It is a reliable, practical magazine, its content emphasising food, everyday family life and consumer issues.

"Readers expect practical benefits from the magazine, and the lifeblood of a customer magazine is offering readers precisely that."

In the early stages of the customer relationship, the individual is, of course, entering into being a customer, and the magazine comes as part of that. So, it is up to the makers of the magazine how the customer connects with the magazine. Jaana Huttunen's recipe is the three Bs: be interesting, be interesting, be interesting.

EVERY FEATURE HAS TO SELL
Underlying every good customer magazine is trust and mutual understanding between the editorial team and the company's management on policy. A thorough discussion about the magazine policy and concept is essential.

"We want to create a positive image of the company. The magazine does contain material intended to get people to buy, so it also has a role in other aspects of marketing communications."

Customer magazines have to operate where company and customer meet, but they should preferably see things through the customer's eyes.

"When the Valintatalo chain makes innovations, we don't write about furniture arrangements or fl oor space, since customers are not really interested in that. We have to be able to think how the innovations are refl ected in the service, or whether they are even visible at all."

If a feature is written in business jargon, the publisher gets more from it than the reader. "Customer magazines have perhaps had an overemphasis on getting the company's message across. It was not for nothing that this model was scrapped," Huttunen says. The reader chooses. If a piece is not interesting, they turn the page. Nevertheless, a mutual interface has to be found.

A monthly magazine always brings its own challenges, since it cannot be used to publish fresh, news-like copy. Instead, the magazine offers tips for situations in everyday life.

"But every feature has to be sold to the reader. A customer magazine has to have a good cover, interesting cover headlines and a solid brand, so that people will want more."


GROWTH BRINGS CHALLENGES

In Me - printed by Hansaprint - food is enormously important. That is why it is crucial that food pictures are reproduced to be enticing and beautiful.

Paper and printing costs eat up the lion's share of the magazine's budget. "A small editorial team like the one at Me has to have a solid, trusting relationship with prepress and the printers for the whole job to go well. Another vital prerequisite is a professional team of freelancers."

Last year's statistics showed an apparent drop in customer-magazine advertising, but at Me the trend is the opposite. "We simply can't take all the adverts we are offered," Huttunen says.

Shop customer magazines have extremely large circulations. Growth is generally welcomed, but a growing customer magazine also brings challenges. Increased circulation means higher costs. So the magazine has to bring real benefits.

What about the fashionable shift to the Internet? "That would be a big temptation if we thought solely in terms of printing and distribution costs," the Editor-in-Chief laughs, but she does not believe the Web will replace print. She expects both to find their own role over time.

"A customer magazine is intended to consolidate customer relationships. At the same time, it has to offer readers not just practical benefi ts, but enjoyment as well. You don't make gourmet food in a microwave oven, and the gourmet aspect of a magazine is in its content and visual impact."

Me is Finland's seventh most widely read periodical, right after Aku Ankka (Donald Duck) and Helsingin Sanomat (Finland's biggest daily newspaper), and people spend 35 minutes reading it.

"Just think of the visibility for advertisers: 860,000 people reading the magazine for over half an hour," Jaana Huttunen reels off the numbers.