Maureen Rice was launch editor of upmarket women’s monthly Psychologies in 2005. In 2010 she was named editorial director in charge of Tesco Magazine at Cedar, which is now the biggest circulation magazine in the UK. She talks about branded content and quality writing.
We are top by circulation, but obviously it’s a free title. The meaningful stat for us is being top by readership. The National Readership Survey (NRS) figure shows that consumers really like the magazine and it’s not just that we control the circulation by putting copies out.
In some ways I wish I’d done this before newsstand. I’ve learned more in the last two years than I have in the previous ten. This part of the industry has been much more agile than newsstand magazines have been. We’ve been faster to embrace the multi-channel proposition than newsstand magazines.
Every magazine is a commercial proposition. In glossies, editors are very commercially savvy, but it still pales into insignificance compared to working directly with clients and understanding how the commercials really work in terms of the content.
At Cedar we don’t employ any copywriters we only employ journalists, because those skills of storytelling and the tricks of reader engagement are core journalistic skills and if you don’t have those, then you don’t have proper content. The days of people being sniffy about branded content are probably over because the lines between branded and non-branded content are all blurring. Brands are media owners now and publishers are shrinking right back and having to be a lot more commercially savvy. I think there are far fewer differences between those two worlds than there used to be.
Tesco Magazine has seven million readers: there shouldn’t be a woman’s magazine in the country that doesn’t look at that and wonder how it does it. That’s higher than anyone else.
For Tesco at the moment, print is still core: readers really do love it and respond to it. We are gravitating more towards apps, digital and events are becoming huge for us. But still at its heart, there is that tactile warmth about the print proposition that readers really love.
You need belief when you are producing content. It’s something to believe in. You have to have an editor who has that vision and that energy that creates that world, the world of your reader that creates your USP. People who produce it – the writers, the designers and the photographers – need to believe in it as well.
I think magazines will be with us forever because content will be with us forever. There has been no lessening in the desire for content, if anything there is more content now than there has ever been and that will only grow. I no longer think in terms of a magazine as a print product: a magazine can mean a lot of different things. Glamour magazine did a join venture with Krispy Kreme donuts to do a series of donuts in London fashion week colours – a donut can be content. The only thing you need to do now as a content producer or a journalist is to make that headshift to content rather than journalism. It’s all about quality content