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Desperately Seeking Subscribers

Marketers will combine old and new methods to bring in new readers.



By Jill Ambroz
12/30/2008

Given the downward Economic spiral and dwindling ad dollars, subscriptions could prove more valuable than ever next year. FOLIO: asked around the industry to see which marketing tactics publishers will employ to bring in new readers.

One thing the consumer marketing directors could agree on was that budgets would be relatively flat going into 2009. From there, it seems that marketers will continue to rely on their best performing and most cost-effective channels—whatever they may be—while allocating some money and efforts toward the newcomers.

Some publishers plan to stand by the more traditional methods of subscription marketing, such as direct mail. Meredith Corp., for example, plans to put a great deal of weight behind direct mail and the Internet while its new media department “tests emerging avenues,” says consumer marketing director Jon Macarthy. “Cost and response pressures on traditional sources require a doubled effort in direct mail, our largest source.”

Meanwhile, Outside seems to be anything but traditional. In 2008, the magazine scrapped the practice of including subscription renewal cards in its subscriber copies, risking a significant loss of subscription revenue. But the publisher is standing by the move, saying that reader feedback is “huge and hugely appreciative,” says consumer marketing director Paul Rolnick. “The loss of new business from that source has been more than replaced by other initiatives, but certainly that loss was and still is an investment we made in customer satisfaction.”

Outside plans to put most of its efforts behind partnerships, online efforts and e-mail—its most successful and cost-effective methods. In 2009, the publisher will allocate more money to online marketing, but otherwise, the budget is in line with previous years, Rolnick says. The magazine will also tap some new marketing tools, such as using social networks to market print subscriptions and utilizing mobile devices to distribute digital content.

Partnership Pay-Offs

Another area where magazine publishers seem to be ramping up their efforts is through marketing partnerships. Both Meredith and Outside stressed the importance of partnerships in their subscription marketing plans for next year. In fact, promoting partnerships tops the list of Outside’s marketing allocations. “Online affiliate marketing, whereby Outside subscription offers are distributed very widely across the Web in revenue-share-type partnerships, has proven to be an excellent source, providing significant volume without sacrificing profitability,” Rolnick says.

Watch for the Web to gain more prominence in marketing plans as sites attract more activity. The MPA recently released a study based on Nielsen Online-supplied data from 345 consumer magazine brands that shows that magazine Web sites are bringing in more unique monthly visitors and logging in more time with them—up 250 million more minutes in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007.

Combining Old and New Media

Bobit Business Media plans to focus on its own Web site—its most cost-effective channel—while using a plethora of marketing methods to reel in subscribers. The publisher, which serves the automotive, beauty, ground transportation and protection markets, recently conducted an internal audit of its sites and identified significant lost opportunities in cross-promotion using trigger, auto-responder and lifecycle marketing techniques, says director of e-media Christine Oldenbrook. “Now that we have identified each customer ‘touch point,’ we will optimize the marketing opportunities we have.”

That includes everything from cover wraps, direct mail and telemarketing to tapping social networks like LinkedIn and My Space and placing subscription promotions in its RSS feeds. The company will also try out new ideas for mobile devices next year.

One area Bobit wants to move away from is telemarketing. Though still a primary source of requalifications for the company, it is getting more expensive, Oldenbrook says. Direct mail is also not a top priority. “We still do direct mail on our paid subscription files, but it has seen declines in profitability,” she says. “So, we will work on tighter list selects and more conservative testing strategies.”

By Jill Ambroz
12/30/2008







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