Posted on October 21, 2013 in Archive

Mediatailing: the genius love child of retail and media


Large retailers like UK grocer Tesco have gotten in the game of ‘mediatailing’ – the fine art of releasing (in Tesco’s case) lifestyle magazines that encourage ‘direct relationships with customers’. In other words, read the Tesco magazine while you buy from Tesco. Some people aren’t crazy about it, but it could be a foreshadowing of how media will eventually be dominated by retailers.

It’s not necessarily a new idea, but it is certainly starting to take off. In simpler times, the biggest attempt at building a relationship between customer and retailer would be offering loyalty cards or discounts, or the checkout girl would actually bother to learn your name. This isn’t enough for the retailer of today, though.

Content marketing – using relevant, curated and tailored content in magazines (both paper and tablet) to build sales, is quite a clever ploy by the retailers. Most supermarkets you venture into these days will have some form of mediatailing – magazines with the same title as the supermarket, featuring gorgeous food covers that promise a super-easy chocolate cake with half the regular calories, or how to get blemish-free skin.

This might seem like it’s catering to a particular audience, but almost everyone seems to pick them up. According to the article hyperlinked above, four out of the five largest-circulation magazines in the United Kingdom are produced for supermarket chains like Tesco and Waitrose. The largest, Tesco, has a monthly circulation of nearly 2 million readers. Nothing speaks as loud for success as numbers do.

It’s not just happening in supermarkets either – online fashion giant ASOS has their own online magazine as well. The journalists working for these publications do a fantastic job of creating an image of what the average shopper looks like (or what they want the average shopper to look like) within their pages, and the best part is that they can do the entire issue full of items from the ASOS website. These publications are not lacking for punch or content that is interesting for the reader, either – if you take the time to look through an issue of the magazine, you’ll quickly learn that retailers are just as capable of pulling in celebrities for interviews and fashion shoots as editorial magazines are.

Liquid State - Mediatailing - collection of magazine covers

Tesco’s mediatailing attempts have been so successful, they have been named the widest selling magazine in the UK.

Because the magazine is unashamedly a publication designed to sell products, they don’t have to place the usual ‘advertorial’ disclaimer that most independent editorial magazines do. Such inhibitions do not exist in the world of mediatailing. This might be part of the reason why in general mediatailers are gaining such fast momentum – they shamelessly sell product through content, and no longer have to rely upon other publications to flog their products for them. They can do it themselves, without the use of a flimsy-looking catalogue full of reduced prices.

Mediatailing isn’t just something to look out for in the print publishing world though – retailers are getting in on digital, too. Content creation is a big thing online – we all know that. But mediatailers are doing it on a big scale – retailer Waitrose has Waitrose TV, with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal filming content for their website and ‘The Delia Smith Online Cookery School’, which features hundreds of original recipes. Other mediatailers have iPad editions of their magazines that feature video content and all sorts of amazing stuff.

Of course, as a whole, mediatailing might be considered a long-winded, complicated route to a simple end – becoming a household name. Surely retailers accomplished this 50 years ago without quite so much fuss. According to Waitrose CEO Mark Price though, that isn’t the point. “There is a whole new revolution in retailing. It has changed the way retailers have to think about what they are. Intellectual property is now more important and we have to think about retailers as content providers in which own-brand is important.”

So what might this mean for traditional publishers that rely upon retailers to buy advertising space? Surely if they are already pushing their own (quite successful) content on the magazine shelf in the supermarket, there isn’t the same reliance and equality in the old dynamic. If the retailers become the advertisers, where does that leave the usual advertisers?

Possibly out in the cold, is where it leaves them. This might cause magazine publishers to search for new ways of generating revenue. They especially need to consider ways to cover the gap between editorial and advertorial content, because living and functioning without that revenue would result in a huge loss for publishers. It’s entirely clear to anyone examining the current situation that the traditional magazine publishers need to play some catch up, if they want to keep up in this new age of mediatailing.