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SPOTLIGHT

Supermarket magazines

They’ve now got their loyalty cards, their BOGOFs and their home shopping. But the big supermarkets haven’t forgotten their own magazines, and are increasingly to be found in digital media too. Alan Geere sees if there are any unexpected items in the bagging area.

Alan Geere

Posted on: 28 March 2017

 

Food (Co-op)

What’s it about: ‘Delicious food made with passion’ – description on website.

Vital statistics: January 2017 issue: 60 pages of 170mm x 220mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Free. Published by The River Group in London.

Cover: Big picture of what looks like a chicken stew (sorry, ‘hotpot’ I find out on page 46), three minimalist coverlines, ‘Food’ masthead with furniture, a ‘free’ sticker and Co-op logo.

Content: A cheerful contents spread divided into ‘Get Cooking’ and two of the dullest words ever, ‘Features’ and ‘Regulars’. Also, a recipe index and an exhortation that ‘We’re online!’ with social media icons but just a link to the website. Good reader interaction throughout, including ‘The Big Question’ with answers from Twitter followers. Coupons, a smattering of ads, a neat ‘Meet the Producer’ feature all complement the 35 recipes that are crammed into the small format.

Digital: Has a link to a magazine page from the main Co-op website and on folio lines, but strangely not the one on the cover of the magazine. A digital archive of magazines going back to the launch issue in 2012, although it’s more an archive of content as the pages themselves are not reproduced. Links to Co-op food Twitter (108k followers) and Facebook (205k likes) plus ‘download iPhone app’.

What they say: “Some online forms now only give 'Ms' or 'Mrs' as options, and not 'Miss'. Gonna choose 'Dr' from now on, seeing as I'm not that either.” – Acting editor Rosie Mullender on Twitter.

Verdict: With its somewhat old-fashioned corner shop reputation, it’s easy to overlook that the Co-op has a bigger market share than Waitrose and an important part in the history of food retailing going back 170 years. This natty sized mag is a tribute to the enduring appeal of the brand and does those Rochdale pioneers proud.

Good Living (Asda)

What’s it about: ‘FOOD | LIVING | HEALTH | HOMES | STYLE’ – strapline on cover.

Vital statistics: January 2017 issue: 92 pages of 225mm x 173mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, stitched. Free. Jan-June 2016 ABC of 1,969,160, making it currently the top magazine title in the UK. Published for Asda by Hearst in London.

Cover: Full bleed pic of ‘Easy beef in black bean sauce’ complete with chopsticks, three coverlines, three yellow x-refs and a slightly retro-looking masthead that pays homage to the Bodoni typeface.

Content: A welcome page is followed by two pages of contents neatly divided into the themes from the cover strapline but rather unnecessarily cramped by a list of who’s who and the publisher’s guff in mini-point. Columnists, articles with unashamed plugs to in-store produce, well signposted ad features, some ‘real people’ saving money in a budget special, fashion, working out, health and full-page ads all contribute to the mix.

Digital: A neat ‘What do you think?’ box sends readers to the main Asda Twitter page (430k followers) and Facebook page (1.8m likes) which both feature the magazine well if you want to hunt for it. Dedicated website - asdagoodliving.co.uk – has plenty of rather functional content, but no direct tie-in to the magazine.

What they say: “We have an exciting opportunity for three children aged five to 12 to draw their ideal bedroom and we'll try and recreate it for them in our magazine,” – a serious trawl for those ‘real people’, this time on netmums.

Verdict: Not-so-subtle merchandising can feel a bit in your face but nearly two million picker-uppers can’t be wrong. Natty back-pocket size is just right to slip in the shopping bag and there is more than enough content to get you through a coffee break with nutty avocado brownies (see page 47).

Sainsbury’s Magazine

What’s it about: ‘Trusted recipes and top tips from Britain’s biggest selling cookery title on the newsstand’ – explainer on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: January 2017 issue: 164 pages of 277mm x 220mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. ‘Special value price’ £1 (usually £2). Jan-June 2016 ABC of 189,578. Published by Seven in London.

Cover: Seven well-constructed coverlines plus a price sticker all cleverly arranged around a bowl of posh porridge (toasted buckwheat, ricotta, figs etc). A big masthead in the Sainsbury house orange which even finds room for another x-ref.

Content: A big welcome page, contents and then two beautiful pages of recipe index, complete with thumbnail pictures and the rather unnecessary boast, “Our recipes work! We triple-test them all”. Then, before the action starts with some cooking from diver Tom Daley, a rather twee but nevertheless engaging page of ‘Who’s Who’ decorated with ‘What has the team been up to this month?’ (Answers: getting married, eating pizza, travelling in Cambodia). Travel, books, offers all complement the array of recipes. Comes in a poly bag with a pile of inserts and a sachet of hot chocolate (not much cooking required).

Digital: Has its own website - sainsburysmagazine.co.uk – with links to Twitter (29k followers) and Facebook (1.5m likes on the general Sainsbury page). Website has offer to subscribe to digital edition and a well-populated blog among the expected regulars.

What they say: “And on the fifth day of January, my true love gave to me a massive glass of wine and I drank it,” food director Leah Hyslop on Twitter.

Verdict: Easily worth the £2 it usually costs, and a snip at just £1. The little touches throughout, like an annotated diagram of the cover so you can easily find where everything is, are a delight. Difficult to see why you would spend two, or even three, times as much for a dedicated food title on the newsstand.

Tesco

What’s it about: ‘Comfort food • money-saving challenge • clever crafts’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: January 2017 issue: 108 pages of 275mm x 117mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Free. Jan-June 2016 ABC of 1,956,827. Published by Cedar Communications in London.

Cover: Pictures of four delicious looking pastry dishes, three coverlines and a big, easily-recognisable Tesco logo.

Content: A likeable contents spread on pages 4-5, split into ‘Food’, ‘Family’ and ‘Living’. Easy to follow recipes with sumptuous photography. Clearly labelled ‘promotions’, a neat upcycling feature, a reader-led money-saving challenge, a good wodge of fitness advice, competition and a recipe index make this a lively read from start to finish. A good spread of ads, including a fair share of left-handers, make it feel like a ‘proper’ magazine rather than a giveaway.

Digital: ‘Join the conversation’ on page 9 has links to digital, which are regular Tesco accounts (Twitter 487k followers, Facebook 2.2m likes) rather than specifically for the magazine. A digital version is available on the website via issuu.

What they say: “The role calls for someone with a creative flair for heads and sells, able to inject humour and humanity into copy while maintaining a friendly yet authoritative tone of voice.” - from job ad for deputy chief sub.

Verdict: As Britain’s No 1 supermarket, with a 28 per cent market share (more than Asda and Morrisons added together), Tesco produces a magazine fit for its top billing. Cedar work hard to add the creative flair to the workaday items that by definition belong in a supermarket.

Waitrose Food

What’s it about: ‘Shopping • Cooking • Eating’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: January 2017 issue: 103 pages of 278mm x 210mm plus 41 pages of ‘Escape’. Quality matt paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £1.20 or free to ‘My Waitrose’ members. Jan-June 2016 ABC of 695,858. Published by John Brown in London.

Cover: Full bleed picture of some sexy-looking root vegetables trumpeting the ‘Eat Veg’ special issue, a ‘Plus’ strapline at the foot and the masthead at the top, including those all-important ‘By Royal Appointment’ badges.

Content: Comes in a poly bag with a lovely calendar and a sachet of herb infusion. A-listers all the way (Raymond Blanc, Paul McCartney etc) in the five pages of welcome and contents which also includes a helpful and straightforward recipe index (smoked tofu and hoisin pancakes are on page 95, since you ask). Adoringly presented throughout – part upscale recipe book, part coffee table book, part cookery course. Complemented by suitably delicious ads for quinoa, ovens, coffee, cruises etc. Turn the mag over and there is ‘Escape’ – ‘Holidays and adventures for intrepid travellers’ – winging in from the back. More of same, but with a travel theme.

Digital: Nothing specifically for the magazine, but plenty of content on Waitrose.com. Not unsurprisingly, a generous 281k Twitter followers and 370k Facebook likes.

What they say: “Just ate soup + slightly burnt piece of toast. Hope life isn't cut too short and I at least make it til tea + more burnt toast.” – editor (and all things MasterChef) William Sitwell on Twitter.

Verdict: Difficult not to get carried away by the sheer professionalism, competence and confidence of this sumptuous magazine. Enough to make you sign up as Waitrose member just to get it free.

Morrisons Magazine

What WAS it about: ‘Food news, exclusive recipes, competitions and more’ – info on Twitter page.

Verdict: Hang on a minute, but Morrisons, Britain’s fourth biggest supermarket with an 11 per cent market share, doesn’t have a magazine… any more.

The Morrisons Magazine was launched in February 2008 amid all the usual fanfare and quietly pulled in June 2015. Its last ABC, for July-Dec 2014, recorded a circulation at 1,373,539, putting it fourth in the country just behind Tesco and Asda.

Encompassing all the content any self-respecting supermarket magazine should have, it was produced by Result in London, who have details of the successful Morrisons campaigns on their website, including “an award winning digital magazine plus the highest read bi-monthly print magazine”.

Result chief operating officer Robin Drysdale told InPublishing that “we are not currently working with Morrisons” and the store themselves confirmed the magazine was “stopped several months ago”.

Although the website morrisonsmag.co.uk has been taken down, the magazine lives on via a Twitter page that, despite having no posts since June 2015, still has 2,415 followers hanging on in there. Perhaps they are waiting for a resurrection…

About Alan Geere
(Details last updated: 16 November 2016)

Alan Geere is an international editorial consultant who has worked for newspapers and magazines, both large and small, around the world.

Tel: 07747 454 417

Email: Send a message to this author

Website: www.alan-geere.com

Twitter: @alangeere

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