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In a nutshell
Distinctive bright yellow posters to tell locals about stories published in the magazine that relate to their town or city.
- Médor is a media co-operative based in Belgium that produces a quarterly magazine focusing on investigative journalism. It has approximately 950 shareholders.
- It also has 2,600 magazine subscribers and sells a further 7,000 copies of each issue at 700 bookshops, co-operatives stores, markets, cultural centres and theatres around Belgium.
- It was founded in late 2015, after a group of 19 journalists became unhappy with the way Belgian media reported on important topics and decided to start their own publication.
- The founders, which include reporters, graphic designers and photographers, are supplemented by two full-time staff members and freelancers.
- Five editors rotate the editorship of each magazine issue to share the workload and to ensure the magazine covers a variety of topics each year.
- Sales of the print magazine in bookshops make up around 50 per cent of Médor’s revenue and will be supplemented by a membership scheme that will be launched later this year.
- In January 2019, Médor became a grantee of the Engaged Journalism Accelerator. As part of this, it is working on Médor on Tour, a series of face-to-face events in different cities in Belgium, and is also developing new online channels to get feedback and source story ideas from members.
How did they do it?
- The Médor team wanted to make readers aware of investigations that had been published about issues (e.g hunting) or political figures of interest in their cities.
- In 2018, Tiffany Lasserre, Médor communications lead, came up with the idea to use the bookshops that sell the quarterly magazine to help drive footfall and sales (the bookshops get 30% of each print magazine sold, so it’s in their interest to sell more copies)
- Tiffany came up with the idea of story-specific posters that the bookshops could display in their windows to alert people to the stories. She worked with the graphic design collective Open Source Publishing to create seven posters about seven different local stories using Scribus, an open-source InDesign-like software.
- Médor included a story about Emir Kir, the mayor of Saint-Josse, a municipality of Brussels, and his authoritarian style and ties with the Turkish AKP, as well as a story about illegal hunting in Ardennes. Other cities included Marche-en-Famenne, Libramont, Liège, Amay and three other cities in the Luxembourg province.
- The bright-yellow posters were sent out to bookshops by the distributor of the magazine and a cycling delivery company. They were also displayed at newsstands, cultural centres and local shops that gave permission, and the posters highlighted all the shops where locals could buy the magazine from.
- Five months after displaying the posters, data about how many magazines were sold is sent back to Médor and analysis is undertaken to understand the outcome of using the posters.
What did they learn?
- For the data collected so far, shops promoted by posters have shown to have a small percentage uplift in sales compared to shops without posters. More analysis will be done this year to understand how much of this is down to the posters or other factors.
- Collaborating with the magazine distributor worked well but using professional distributors next time would enable Médor to utilise their knowledge and place the posters in the places that would gain the most visibility.
- Pitching the idea about the posters to bookshops proved useful to open up channels of communication with owners about the placement of the magazines and other possible promotions.
- Feedback from the bookshop owners was often surprising. For example, one man in Brussels who reportedly had ties to the mayor saw the posters and asked the bookshop if they could take down the poster (they didn’t). Another went in and bought every magazine in the shop (the team thinks this was to prevent members of the public from reading it).
- Some shops didn’t want to place the poster in their windows because they feared other magazines would ask for the same, and they did not want to be overwhelmed with requests.
- The team is now planning to use the posters as a way to gather stories, rather than publicise them, by inviting locals to meet journalists in four cities on certain dates. They intend to try this in September as part of their Médor on Tour project.
In their own words
Tiffany Lasserre, communications executive, Médor
"We wanted to alert, provoke curiosity and induce readers to read the article in question which was related to the region where we posted the posters. And of course, make Médor known in a particular region where our readership is still small."
How would you improve it?
"We could test the design more. At the moment, we use coloured sheets with black and white ink. We may also involve our readers in the distribution. That would be interesting."
Now try it for yourself
- A PBS radio station used 50 billboards to update locals across 10 counties about the 2018 midterm election results.
- The Guardian used billboard advertising in New York to promote its online edition when it opened up a US newsroom back in 2013
- Helsingin Sonomat, Finland’s leading newspaper, created a digital campaign on 280+ billboards in Helsinki last year to remind Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin about the importance of press freedom.
- Huffington Post created a pop-up newsroom in Birmingham to report on topics that had not been covered in the UK’s second city.
- New York-based non-profit THE CITY will hold open newsrooms in various Brooklyn neighbourhoods in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library.
- LA public radio station KPCC turned to snail mail and email to reach new audiences.