Best in Class

Panorama 1/19

With a print run of 2.6 million copies, the weekly «Coopzeitung» is the most read newspaper in Switzerland. The free newspaper, which is printed in three languages, reaches nearly half of the Swiss population. «Panorama» spoke with Patrick Wehrli, the publisher of «Coopzeitung», about this unique success model.

«Panorama»: A simple question to start off with – why does Coop Cooperative publish its own newspaper?

Patrick Wehrli: Coop serves a million customers in its stores every day, and «Coopzeitung» is mainly geared toward them. On the one hand, this is because our customers are very interested in what Coop does. «Coopzeitung» provides first-hand information, knowledge and values from the Coop world – and, of course, marketing information as well, such as current special offers and new products. We report on Coop’s commitment – for example, in the area of sustainability – and we also entertain our readers. In other words, we try to produce an interesting magazine that will, in an ideal scenario, provide readers with help in their everyday lives and bring them a bit of joy as well.

How has the concept and the mix of themes in «Coopzeitung» changed over the years?

We are constantly adjusting our concept in line with changing media usage habits. Until six years ago, «Coopzeitung» was seen as a traditional newspaper; now it is viewed as a magazine. In order to emphasize this shift in terms of format, it is now saddle stitched and trimmed. In terms of content, «Coopzeitung» is very consumer-oriented. We have a clear editorial profile and we edit the magazine’s content to ensure that it appeals to as many people as possible and reflects the spirit of the times.

How has the print run changed over the past 20 years?

We are one of the few titles in Switzerland with a stable print run. The print run has been at its current level for around 20 years, covering nearly two-thirds of all private Swiss households.
We reach 120 000 young people between the ages of 14 and 19.
Patrick Wehrli, Publisher of Coopzeitung
What is the breakdown of your readership in terms of gender and age?

«Coopzeitung» is read by slightly more women (58%) than men and, as with many other print media, the majority of our readers (more than 75%) are over the age of 35. But we also reach 120,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 19. While this is a fairly small figure in terms of the overall readership, it is considerable compared to a daily newspaper.

Does Coop view «Coopzeitung» as a profit center, or is it instead a part of your marketing budget?

It is a profit center.

What is the breakdown of printing, distribution and editorial expenses?

With the exception of the print run, we generally do not provide any business figures. The majority of our expenses go toward the product itself (i.e. paper and printing) and distribution (i.e. postal costs).

How does «Coopzeitung» differ from other customer magazines?

In Switzerland, there is only one similar product in this form – «Migros Magazine», which also appears weekly. In general, we differ in terms of our clear focus. We have a very clear, consumer-oriented profile. Our slogan is: «The good side of Switzerland. Read, marvel, profit.» That’s why we only publish positive stories in «Coopzeitung.» It does not contain any politics or negative news coverage – we want to convey a sense of joy in and about everyday life. And we are, of course, close to Coop and its subsidiaries and therefore Coop’s marketing efforts as well, which is, given our clear profile, the reason why we offer a lot of product information, relatively speaking. But this is what readers of «Coopzeitung» expect.

Do you view «Coopzeitung» as a traditional magazine or as a «magalog» for the products that Coop sells?

We are decidedly a consumer magazine with a focus on service and utility. In particular, utility – along with range – is very important for us. That’s why we focus our themes closely on Coop products. We can’t publish stories in «Coopzeitung» about products that can’t be purchased at Coop. Our readers wouldn’t understand that.

What is the share of Coop’s own advertising in «Coopzeitung» – both in relation to the total number of pages and compared to third-party advertising?

Ads make up around 45% of the total page count, with nearly half of these being Coop ads.

What non-Coop advertisers do you allow to advertise in «Coopzeitung»?

Some are business partners, while others are traditional third-party customers, such as businesses in the travel, pharmaceutical and automotive industries, banks and insurance companies – in other words, industries that do not compete with Coop’s core business.

Do the third-party advertisers – including a striking number of travel advertisers – help to cover your budget, or are they solely intended to add diversity to Coop’s own advertising?

There’s no doubt they help to cover our budget. They also meet a need on the part of our readers. Many have become used to finding out about travel opportunities in «Coopzeitung», mainly in Switzerland, but also about river trips and cruises. These ads wouldn’t work if there wasn’t a reader need.

In addition to traditional ads, each edition also includes several inserts. How many are there on average?

Technically, we can include as many as five inserts. But I'm sure you'll understand that we can’t provide any information about the number of inserts.

Does each edition contain the same inserts, or do you use geo-zoning?

It depends on our insert customers. We are, in fact, increasingly using geo-zoning – we call it split editions – and are therefore including an increasing number of target group-specific inserts. This is a general trend where machine manufacturers must help and support us, so we can include even more individualized inserts in the future than are currently possible.

Is geo-zoning going in the direction of individual regions, or is it going even further down to the level of individual neighborhoods or streets?

It varies. We can narrow down our splits by postal code, or for example, with our «Hello Family» magazine concentrate on individual segments, such as families with children who are members of the «Hello Family» club.

How important are inserts for «Coopzeitung»?

Almost none of our inserts are from third parties. Instead, they mostly revolve around providing information about Coop and its products. They are an important driver for our readers. Some of our readers do not read «Coopzeitung» primarily for the editorial content, but rather because of the ads and inserts. In addition, an attractively designed insert makes it possible to provide more detail about the various products and their features.

In addition to the cooperatives, a large number of your customers who have your «Supercard»customer card also receive «Coopzeitung». Do you use the data based on the shopping habits of your customers to create personalized editions of your newspaper?

No, we don't do this. Nor does the print finishing technical infrastructure allow for this yet at the moment.

Are you discussing this sort of personalization concept for the future?

In general, we discuss a lot of things, keep our eyes open and observe the market closely. In line with our philosophy, we want to be an innovation leader. That is why, in 2014, we were the first to convert a traditional newspaper into a high-quality, trimmed and saddle stitched magazine. We try to set the pace in this area and to stay one step ahead of the others. That’s because a handy magazine that is saddle stitched and not tattered has a much higher utility than a traditional newspaper.

What impact would personalization have on the printing process? In other words, is personalization even realistic when it comes to newspapers with a print run in the millions?

Not at the moment. And the question is whether personalization of «Coopzeitung» is even something that we want and would it make sense? We want «Coopzeitung» to be a publication that people flip through. We want to make our readers aware of things that they weren’t necessarily looking for and maybe to surprise them – in contrast to the internet, where people are explicitly looking for something. If we were too heavily personalized, we would lose this effect and our USP.

So for you, this «browsing effect» is more important than any «distribution losses» so to speak?

Absolutely, because time and again we see that people wind up finding something that they hadn’t even been looking for – which often involves a positive surprise.
The value of «Coopzeitung», as a printed medium, continues to be high.
Patrick Wehrli, Publisher of Coopzeitung
According to studies, printed advertising materials are considered to be more effective at attracting attention and more credible than newsletters or other forms of online advertising. In the view of your company, what is the value of printed products in an era of digital media?

There will be more and more channels, and all of them will remain important. Advertising will become more fragmented and you can’t leave anything out. The value of «Coopzeitung» as a print medium, however, remains high – because there is no other communication tool that is as efficient for Coop.

So the value of your printed magazine has not changed in recent years?

No, not at all. But there are, of course, always new disciplines – especially for marketing, but also for corporate communications as well.

Could you specify what these disciplines are?

Many years ago, Coop used just two channels – Coop Mittwochstudio (Coop Wednesday Studio) and «Coopzeitung» – to provide information to all of Switzerland. Now we are on Twitter (mainly for media representatives) Facebook (for access to the general public), Instagram and, in the area of employer branding, LinkedIn and Xing. The channels are becoming more and more fragmented – and now it’s necessary to be on many of them.
But you still believe that print will play an important role?

Yes, absolutely – as the representative of «Coopzeitung», I would even say the most important.

Coop sells products both in its brick-and-mortar stores and online. Is «Coopzeitung» focused on both sales channels, or is your magazine intended primarily to get readers into your stores?

The main aim of «Coopzeitung» is maintain customer loyalty, entertain and, of course, motivate readers to shop at Coop or a Coop company. Whether this is done in a store or online ultimately doesn’t matter.

«Coopzeitung» is also available as an e-paper on your website. What is the significance of the electronic version compared to the number of readers of the printed edition?

We view the e-paper as an important service channel – for example, for Swiss abroad who cannot receive the print edition. Many readers also use the e-paper as a reference, as they can find all of the editions that have been printed since 1902 in electronic form. There are also certain people who read the e-paper instead of the printed edition.

You have also online contests. Are these major attractions?

Yes, contests do incredibly well! They are the traffic generator. The print and online channels can also be combined. For example, the crossword puzzle in «Coopzeitung» is our largest web traffic generator with some 80,000 readers entering the solution on our website each week in order to win five shopping vouchers. We also have Sudoku and other games in «Coopzeitung».

Do you think this combination of various media channels will continue to gain importance over the next several years?

I don’t think copying text and images on the internet on a one-to-one basis is a sustainable model for the future – for this reason, I view the online version of «Coopzeitung» as more of a service. However, our magazine has many features that function a bit like tutorials. Almost no one uses a newspaper to provide this sort of information anymore, as there are better channels for this type of information, such as YouTube. Make-up, gardening and do-it-yourself tips can now be demonstrated in a video. The internet is also more suitable for providing advice, in the form of live chats with experts. In the future, the internet will complement print rather than merely serving as a medium that allows you to publish existing content.

In addition to «Coopzeitung» and the «Coop Pronto Magazine», you also have a broad array of online communication offerings. Are these mainly focused at a younger audience?

One of the core ideas behind our online channel is that we want to reach more younger people, but we also want to use it to maintain the loyalty of our core readers. Of course, young people have a greater affinity for the internet. And we are trying to think of ways we can better reach young people. But we have to choose the right topics, speak the right language and it all has to be put together correctly. This is a major challenge.

About «Coopzeitung»

Established: 1902
Print run: 2.6 Million1
Readers: 3.5 million
Editions per year: 52

11.84 million German, 630,000 French and 127,000 Italian copies

About Coop

Coop is the largest retail and wholesale company in Switzerland. It is organized as a cooperative with around 2.6 million members. Coop operates supermarkets, warehouses, restaurants, home improvement stores and drug stores under its own name, and via its subsidiary Coop Mineraloel AG, it also operates gas stations and convenience stores. The Coop Group also includes Interdiscount, Fust,, Bell and Transgourmet. The Coop Group has a total of 2,437 sales points.

Coop was founded in 1890 as Verband Schweizerischer Konsumvereine (Swiss Federation of Cooperatives), and renamed Coop in 1969. It employs 86,318 people and had revenues of CHF 29.2 billion (EUR 24.2 billion) in 2017.