04 Dec 2012, Posted by Bill Winters

Custom Publishing

A strong correlation exists between today’s content strategy practice and the act of putting together a custom periodical as we did in previous decades. Citizen’s Insurance contracted my company to publish a magazine that cemented their relationship with Michigan Seniors. Based on audience research and competitive analysis, we devised recurring content for this publication. With feature articles and  bylined columns, I created what amounted to templates and hired an editor and writers to fulfill them. Back in the day, I was credited as Creative Director. In today’s parlance I would have been the Content Strategist.

We christened this publication Quality Time because that seemed to be a goal of the audience. While they were seeking Quality Time in their life, we hoped to give them some quality time with this magazine.

Citizens Quality Time Magazine Cover

Our primary competitor was AAA, or more specifically, AAA’s Michigan Living magazine. While we discovered that road travel was important to our audience, we couldn’t make it the focus of our magazine because AAA had that space covered.

Instead, Quality Time put an inspiring story of a Michigan senior who had started a new chapter in their life after retirement, whether starting a new career, a new hobby or finding fulfillment with a charitable act. In the closest thing we had to analytics in this era, a measure of success was the suggestions we had for cover stories.

Regular columns in Quality Time consisted of many needs and interests of Michigan Seniors, such as golf and finances.

Custom publishing became a profit center for the agency I served as Creative Director for. Another example was in the business-to-business realm: INSIDE SOURCE for Johnson Controls Automotive Systems Group.

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Similar to Quality Time, I created templates and recurring features and we fulfilled them by sourcing content from writers and internal teams. I believe this experience with custom publications is eminently applicable to today’s practice of Content Strategy.

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