First National Bank of Boston, in conjunction with an Atlanta publisher, has launched a quarterly full-color magazine for its 57,000 small-business customers.

The 22-page first issue of Business Focus includes articles about using the Internet and succession in family enterprises, as well as three full-page advertisements.

With Business Focus, which rolled out late last month, the Bank of Boston Corp. flagship becomes the latest bank to use a publication to try to foster customer goodwill and to market its products.

In late 1995, Bank of Boston turned to Atlanta-based Media 3 Publications, which publishes tabloid newspapers with a small-business orientation for 12 banks. The two companies worked together to create Business Focus.

Media 3 plans to offer versions of Business Focus to other banks, said Milan Funk, president of the publishing company.

Alan Bloomquist, senior vice president of Oxxford Information Technology, a consulting company in Rockville, Md., said banks "need to have low-cost communication vehicles to the small-business customers, because you can't offer a lot of face-to-face hand-holding and calling. The magazines also provide a point of differentiation in an era where most bank products are indistinguishable."

Karen Schwartzman, a Bank of Boston spokeswoman, said the magazine fits in with the company's heightened attention to the small-business segment.

"Bank of Boston was primarily known as a big business and international bank," Ms. Schwartzman said. "We were interested in driving home to customers and prospects that we are a bank for small companies, and over the past four to five years we have taken a number of steps to expand our small-business capabilities."

Bank of Boston joins the likes of Wells Fargo & Co. and NationsBank Corp. in offering magazines to small businesses.

Those two banks work with Group IV Publications, a publisher in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The magazines are modular, with customized advertising and articles integrated with stock articles.

Last year Bank of Boston had signed a letter of intent to work with Group IV, but that fell apart because of turf problems, said Alan Schachter, senior marketing manager for Bank of Boston.

Group IV grants its banks a regionally exclusive market, so Bank of Boston would not have been able to distribute the magazine to its Connecticut customers, because Chemical Banking Corp. already had that territory sewn up, Mr. Schachter said.

"We wanted to be in all our market areas," Mr. Schachter said.

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