Top Ten Reasons Why Magazine Companies Should Use Consumer Research - Steve Blacker - MediaBizBloggers

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1. A GREAT EDITOR MAY NOT BE A GREAT PROMOTIONAL COVER LINE WRITER. How many months in a row can women be expected to "Walk Off Weight," "Blast Off Belly Fat" and "Lose One Dress Size?" Too many cover lines are repetitive, lack originality, do not get a clear consumer benefit across, are too wordy or cannot be read due to poor color contrasts.

2. DO NOT TAKE THE READER FOR GRANTED. Before the Internet and its plethora of blogs and Web sites, not to mention numerous cable channels, magazines had much less competition to gain a newsstand buyers' attention. Too many magazine editors fail to realize that they are competing with all media, i.e. WebMD, The Knot and not just their competitive print set.

3. IF YOU DO NOT TEST NEW IDEAS AND COVER CONCEPTS YOU WILL CONTINUE TO LOSE NEWSSTAND SALES. Most editors shy away from trying out-of-the-box new cover executions. How can you expect to improve newsstand sales if you keep repeating the same seasonal covers and typical cover lines that may have worked for you five or ten years ago but today no longer do?

4. CONSUMER RESEARCH SUPPORTS A CREATIVE PROCESS, IT DOES NOT REPLACE IT. Too many editors fear consumer research or just do not understand it. Consumer research allows an editor to test a variety of significantly different cover executions and cover lines against a database of online newsstand buyers. It is relatively inexpensive (less than $3,500 an issue) and turn around time can be just a few days.

5. CONSUMER RESEARCH HAS MATCHED IN MARKET TESTS 89% OF THE TIME. While no research is 100% accurate, online cover testing results matched market results almost 90% of the time. Not using consumer research for covers today is akin to flying through a storm in a plane that has no radar.

6. TOO MANY COVERS LOOK ALIKE AND THERE IS NOT ENOUGH BRAND DIFFERENTIATION. The average newsstand buyer makes their purchase decision at a check-out in 5 seconds or less. How do you know if your potential cover has real stopping power and will work if you do not test it?

7. CONSUMER RESEARCH ALLOWS YOU TO FIND OUT WHY SOMEONE WHO BOUGHT YOUR SEPTEMBER ISSUE DID NOT BUY YOUR OCTOBER ISSUE. A major target of opportunity is to get your occasional newsstand buyer to buy more issues. A new re-contact study allows you for the first time ever to find out why. Was the cover too crowded? Which cover lines worked and which didn't? What about the cover image?

8. CONSUMER RESEARCH FORCES THE EDITOR AND THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR TO SPEND MORE TIME WORKING ON AN UPCOMING COVER. I have often seen covers and cover lines put together at the last minute. The cover is a magazine's most important and only promotional tool for newsstands. Great editors like Kate White of Cosmo spend a week or more working and testing an upcoming cover.

9. COVER COLORS ARE IMPORTANT. Why not test colors that stand out in a crowded supermarket aisle? Or that seem to have strong and vibrant appeal in some other setting?

10. SHOCK AND AWE. A cover has to surprise a newsstand buyer and gain his or her attention. New topics have to be continually tested. Less crowded covers with fewer cover lines need to be tested. Emerging trends must be taken advantage of. Might "Too Tired For Sex?" work or is it too racy? Depends on the magazine and the consumer research.

Steve's new book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189 lessons learned and insider tips from Gayle King, Cathie Black, Chuck Townsend and 28 others; Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is and e-mail address is

Read all Steve’s MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Steve Blacker - MediaBizBloggers.

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