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Roy Beagley

Matching Your Digital Magazine Features With Your Audience

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 01/24/2014-11:28 AM


More and more publishers have a digital version of their magazines and if you are about to embark upon the digital road, there is a great deal to consider before you take the plunge.

Digital magazines can do a lot to boost a publisher’s presence, but there are many issues to keep in mind. The savvy circulation professional knows to look at both the positive and negative possibilities as a matter of course. The savvy circulation professional recognizes,   for instance, that a 70 percent renewal response really equates to 30 percent of the file disappearing. The savvy circulation professional will recognize that you need to evaluate what kind of digital magazine will work for your market.

Digital magazines have one major advantage over print: you can adapt them to individual readers’ requirements. Print cannot do this easily, although it has been done for longer than you may think. The Economist, Time, and Newsweek as far back as the seventies used to change the pagination of most issues to reflect readership simply by moving sections of the magazine around.

In deciding what will work for your magazine, you have to look at what you have available. You also have to decide what you want to achieve by producing a digital version. Is it going to support the print product or branch out on its own? Is it going to replace the print product? Does the editorial department have the ability to be proactive in possibly producing “personal” content? What information can you access on your subscribers to make their digital experience worthwhile?

Answers to these questions will dictate the digital path you need to take. Digital magazines arguably have a disadvantage over print—and that is accessibility, ironically enough. You need something to read the magazine on, be it a tablet, phone, laptop or desktop. Some of these options are more portable than others, but the fact is that a print product just needs to be picked up and you are good to go. You need to make readers’ experience as memorable as possible otherwise renewal and requalification rates will start to fall and this is something we already know, certainly on controlled circulation as response rates differ vastly between print and digital.

At its simplest your digital magazine can just be a copy or replica of your print publication. Not only is this the simplest solution, it is also probably the cheapest—and the most boring. However, as noted above a digital strategy is a companywide thing, it relies on the abilities of production, editorial, advertising as well as circulation or audience development. You can split a digital edition out by geographic area, and this could be as broad as continent or as narrow as zip or post code. If you have demographics on your subscribers, you could gear your editorial according to those demographics.  The more demographics or information you have, the more defined your digital magazine can be.

Next week we’ll discuss how far you can take your digital initiative and what you need to measure to see whether it is working—or not.



Roy Beagley

Renewal Notices and First Impressions

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 01/15/2014-14:04 PM


Harlan Hogan said “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” which is almost as annoying as “there is no ‘I’ in team,” but even more annoying is both these sayings happen to be true.

Whether you are sending a new offer, a renewal effort, an invoice or an order acknowledgement, your outer envelope speaks volumes about your publication. Therefore, before you decide on outer envelope copy, make sure you understand your audience.

“Yo Dude! Here’s a mega awesome offer!” is probably not going to work well if you are offering a new subscription and your audience is CEOs, expectant mothers or students of English literature. Keep in mind the audience you are serving. Sending a letter to chief executives in a plain envelope without any copy whatsoever almost guarantees the letter will be opened, thus proving the adage “less is more” is just as annoying as “there is no ‘I’ in team” as well as Mr. Hogan’s message noted earlier.

Keeping the message on target is important, but urging the recipient to do something is also a good technique. If I get an envelope that states: “You need do nothing”, then I do nothing and throw the unopened envelope away. If I get an envelope that says: “You need do nothing… but what about 5 extra issues?” my trash can may not fill up quite so quickly, since now I am intrigued by the offer.

I’m not sure how many people only send renewal notices by email, but if you do not put at least a couple of renewal efforts in the mail, you are missing an opportunity. I know more and more people are getting and paying their invoices on the Internet but many are still convinced it’s unsafe for personal data. Don’t let “being green” stop you from mailing some renewal efforts. And be creative. Done correctly, you will see a good response to mail efforts, probably better than your email response.

Putting an acknowledgement of an order into the mail is not a bad idea. You can use this notice to offer people an opportunity to extend their subscription term (called a renewal at birth), or offer them other products. Here’s suggested copy: “Thanks for being part of our family and as a valued member, here are some other products we thought you might like to know about.”

This approach makes you a) look as if you really care (which you do) and b) get more revenue just for being nice.

However, all of this relies on one thing, getting people to open the envelope. Ask yourself what makes you open an envelope. The promise of a benefit? Something free inside? Engagement, such as a short quiz?
Think long and hard…and prosper!


Roy Beagley

Sourcing Controlled Subs From Your Website

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 12/17/2013-14:58 PM


One of the best ways of reaching your market is via your own website. I know this sounds obvious, but it always surprises me the number of controlled magazines that do not have a new subscription offer on their site. In some cases this is because the magazine’s rate base is very healthy, but in this day and age of reduced budgets this is the exception rather than the norm.

I visit many websites during the course of a week, and there is no real happy medium. You either get no subscription offers at all, or so many that every time you go to a site,
any good cheer gained at this time of year is well and truly lost.

If you are making multiple offers via your website, keep them under control otherwise you will scare people off. There is nothing more annoying than navigating to a page, only to get an offer for something you don’t want that is replaced by an offer for something else you don’t want when you close the page on the first offer. The record so far stands at seven offers, and by the time I was able to rid my life of all these offers, I had forgotten why I had gone to the website in the first place—and have not been back since. Actually, I lied, there is one thing more annoying. Going to the same website and getting the same “literature” every time.

Control your offers including when and how people see them. Any circulation or audience development professional that does not liaise with the IT department on at least a weekly basis is missing opportunities and more importantly probably losing orders. Being able to react to news relating to your business is key, especially if it is “hot” news. Taking quick advantage of breaking news can be handled with a 250 x 250 ad on the website that circulation or audience development can upload themselves; early birds catching worms comes to mind. You know what I mean!

Make sure your offer can be seen efficiently on mobile devices. Some advertisements I have been exposed to have rendered my mobile phone immobile. I know it sounds obvious, but there is nothing worse than an Englishman with an immobile mobile—Sting might even write a song about it. There is only so much any one person can take, so make sure you do not overplay your hand, or else you may well find your prospect is going somewhere else (and despite paywalls, there usually is somewhere else) to get the information you yourself offer.


Roy Beagley

Managing the Variables of Digital Circ

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 12/03/2013-16:26 PM


For good or for ill, digital is here to stay. I have no doubt it is good for many readers, I am not sure how good it is for publishers because there are still too many variables concerning digital circulation. These variables are being worked out, slowly in some cases, but as an industry we have to make sure we understand the results and interpret them correctly, and not as we would like them to be.

Just because the recently released version of the iPad sold in the millions does not mean digital circulation is going to increase as a direct result of the release. Most people I know who purchased the latest iPad did so to replace the iPad they already had. Over the next weeks people will receive some sort of reader for the holidays, but the total in sales will not see a similar increase in digital circulation.

It is important to recognize why digital circulation increases. Many controlled publishers are shifting their three-year old-circulation over from print to digital, not because the reader desires this, but because the publisher does. We have found that re-qualification response rates of digital subscriptions are lower than those on the print file. I believe this is because digital magazines are not as readily accessible as their print cousins. Therefore, you will probably have to send digital subscriptions more efforts to get the same net response as print. There is nothing wrong in this, just remember that you will have to send more efforts and this may affect your promotion budget. What you are saving in printing and mailing costs can be used to send additional efforts, although in reality these savings are almost never passed on.

Do not get hooked on the general belief that digital subscriptions will respond better to electronic methods than more traditional methods; there is no rationale to support this thinking, and until you have tested all formats and gained meaningful results—results supported by facts, not opinions—tread carefully.

The digital world is upon us, and as promoters, marketers and indeed users, we should embrace the new technology and make it work for us. Digital circulation is a small part of total circulation. It will grow over the next few years, although the growth will slow down, but for all that it would be dangerous to make assumptions based on opinion rather than test results.

Yesterday, on one of the networks, an expert said, “People feel more confident in the market than they did a few years ago.” On the same show, another expert said, “People are not confident concerning their financial futures.” Facts based on opinions have no value, but opinions based on facts are worth their weight in a ton of iPads!


Roy Beagley

Embracing Connectivity in a Digital World

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 10/24/2013-15:04 PM

Over the past few years, the word “digital” has gone from merely denoting a replica of a print magazine to just about anything you do electronically. Engaging people through the various means we have available to us takes time, effort and, dare I say it, some money, as well. It also needs another thing that many do not currently have—a strategy.

Whether you engage people via a Web site, an iPad or smart phone app, through email or via any other platform, you need to have a strategy in place to make sure your customers or prospects engage with you for a long time to come—wherever they are. Assuming you plan to reach people through more than one platform, you’ll need a strategy to integrate all of them.

How frequently you need to engage with people really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. A newsletter, a tweet or an updated RSS feed certainly works on a daily basis. You can update your Facebook page or make an entry on LinkedIn to keep people involved, too. Whatever it is, you just need a plan to reach your entire market.

Newsletters are a good way to engage people and keep them involved, but your strategy must make sure your newsletter carries information people are going to benefit. This is where some spare cash may come in useful. Do not overwhelm people with content. You are more likely to drive them off a cliff rather than toward your product.

Some say sending an email first thing in the morning, so it appears at the top of the recipient’s inbox, is a good thing. Others claim sending email after 10:00 A.M. is better. All this really proves is we don’t always know what works and what doesn’t. I would venture to suggest it depends a great deal on the market with which you are dealing. After all, a night worker’s shift ends when most others’ start and an email at the end of their shift may indeed work very well early in the morning.

If you are going to engage via social media, make sure your strategy details when you plan to do this. You should add content on a regular basis and testing should determine the optimum frequency. You should also add content when the situation demands like with hot news or a special story. Don’t forget that this content should always be worth sharing.

Wherever you post content, keep an eye on it to make sure people don’t abuse your efforts. Check Facebook and other (anti) social media at least once day. When people ask to be removed from lists, remove them—no muss, no fuss. Just say “thanks” and move on.

More and more, digital is part of our world. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I have yet to figure out. For now, it is here and we need to embrace it—not willy-nilly—but in a well-ordered manner so we can take maximum advantage whilst we may.

Roy Beagley

Cramming for Your November Audit

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 10/15/2013-15:21 PM


If you are working on a publication with a November audit cycle and you still have to get more orders, here are some things you might like to try.

If you need new orders, try calling your existing one-year subscribers to ask them if there is someone else in their organization who would benefit from a subscription. Then, email the prospect and inform them their colleague suggested they might like a subscription and see if you can get them to order from that email. If not, try calling them.

If you are still trying to re-qualify your file, now is the time to send a short-form email. Short forms work well, but remember even though the age of the subscription will be one year, the demographics will not be updated, and this is something you need to make a note of for next year. You can also do a short-form phone call as well, and since you are not asking all the demographic questions, most telemarketing companies will give you a good rate, providing the telemarketing company can make room for the program in its schedule.

If you have fax numbers on your file, and permission to fax, send one out for re-qualifications. Faxes are so old they are new again. While results are not earth shattering, they may be the butt-saver you need. Use a purl in the fax so people can reply online as well as a fax number for responses.

The somewhat anti-social social media may be of use to you. If you have a Facebook page, trying offering a new subscription on your page and if you have a Twitter presence, why not tweet out a new subscription offer—every order counts. If you have a LinkedIn page, create an offer there too, it can do no harm and while social media may not be the best responder, it is certainly worth a try.



Roy Beagley

Tips for Optimizing Email Marketing

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 10/01/2013-14:19 PM


Despite best intentions, it seems as though response to email efforts is still difficult to predict. Quite why this is, I am not sure, but the “usual” rules of marketing just don’t apply to an email effort, be it for new subscriptions, renewals, re-qualifications or other products.

Even the rules that have been established do not apply all the time. I am constantly told not to send an email out on Friday, yet many of the email blasts I send on a Friday get good results. The problem is, what works this Friday may not work next Friday, but there is no obvious reason why. I am told the best time to send an email is at 6:00 am, so the email is in the recipient’s inbox when they start to look through their email. I tried this. It failed the first time, worked the second time, and the third time most of the messages seemed to get delayed since many of the responses came back the following afternoon.

Until the rules are standardized and predictable, you need to be the rule maker. Try a few simple tests to see what works and, just as importantly, doesn’t work for you.

1) Do an a/b split on your email blast and send half in the morning, half in the afternoon and see if one responds better than the other. Do this several times to see if you can determine a pattern.

2) Test html and text versions of the same email. Text may but ugly, but ugliness did not stop Frankenstein’s monster from getting a bride!

3) If the first email does not succeed, send it again. Very often response is better on the resend (and resend of the resend) than on the original deployment.

4) Make sure your html does not have too many images because this can cause spam filters to go into hyper drive.

5) I know spam filters supposedly hate the word “free,” but test it, you may be surprised. “Free” does work in some cases.

It is a good idea to send out a re-qualification effort on controlled books over a three-week period. The first is deployed on Tuesday, the follow up nine days later on Thursday and a final follow up six days later on the Wednesday. Very often, the response on Wednesday is higher than the previous Thursday’s response. Why? I don’t have a clue, but that is what makes being the rule-maker fun! 


Roy Beagley

How You Should Be Using Gift Promos

Roy Beagley Sales and Marketing - 08/13/2013-14:36 PM

A few weeks ago, we reviewed some of the things you can do with gift offers, especially within your own magazine, and it can be very easy to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve.

Offering a gift subscription is not the same as creating a house offer, although many people do fall foul of this. When creating a house offer, be it an off-the-page advertisement, blow in or bind in card, you are trying to sell the magazine to the person reading your promotion; when creating a gift offer, you are selling the idea of giving someone a gift-the offers are not the same.

Copy for a gift promotion should be about the product and why your gift will give pleasure to the recipient, so avoid words like "you" and use "they" instead. A little flattery never hurts either, so copy such as "...they'll thank you for your generous gift all year long" could certainly be in order. And gift acknowledgement cards sent to recipients are much prized by gift givers, so be sure you mention that you send them to recipients in the donor's name. It you have price savings for multiple gifts, be sure to mention that in your gift ad, as well as how to enter multiple orders by phone.

The gift offer should not be over-designed (actually, nothing should ever be over-designed, but you know what I mean). The important things on a blow in card are the "from" and "to" address boxes, an offer that is clear, concise, easy to understand and an uncluttered form. You do not need covers galore, in most cases you don't need a cover at all-which is just as well, because there is not much room on a card measuring 4.25 x 6 inches.

Because of the information you have to include on the form, avoid using too much reversed-out copy. Stock for blow in and bind cards can soak up ink like crazy and with fonts tending to be smaller size, you can end with a fuzzy mess on your hands. If you are running an advert in your magazine, just about the reverse is true. You can drop out copy because fonts are generally larger and the paper stock usually better.

Bind in cards can be stacked so that you can have at least two cards and even three gift cards if you wish. Design the bind in so the bottom of your card gets trimmed off. That means there is one less perforation you have to worry about. Your run-of-the-page advertisement, blow in and bind in cards do not all have to have the same design, they can all be different.

Recognize the difference between gift ads and house ads, otherwise you may lose out on a lot of orders and at a time of giving, who wants to do that?

Roy Beagley

Why It's Worth It to Revive Your Wrap and Tip Promos

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 06/27/2013-15:50 PM


There is a great temptation to use all things new in promotions and ignore the old—the wise circulation manager and audience developer will not fall into this trap. Not every promotion makes a profit, sometimes things have to be done for what they achieve rather than what they cost.

Insert cards for instance almost never pay for themselves, but they get orders from every issue and are a good source of low-cost subscriptions compared to other types of promotion. If you don’t believe me, ask the folks at TV Guide.

Wraps and tips were once very popular but fell out of favor when we started to push people to order or renew via a website rather than accept an order form sent in via fax or the mail. Some markets (and some people), despite the digital world, still prefer forms you can drop into the mail. If you have not tried a wrap or a tip of late it might be a worthwhile walk on the wild side to see what happens.

Tips and wraps are inexpensive to produce although both will result in an additional cost at your printer. However, the additional cost may be worth it. Tips and wraps can be used for both new subscriptions and renewals or re-qualifications, but with renewals and re-qualifications, you will probably achieve a better cost per order.

Keep the design simple. Remember, if people already subscribe they do not need to be told how wonderful the magazine is, they know that already. They need to be told in the kindest possible way why their life will be less pleasurable if they do not renew—the more suffering the better!

There is not a great deal of difference in cost between four-color and two-color printing anymore, but on controlled publications two-color will normally suffice. Your magazine printer will have size and trim requirements for tips and wraps so make sure any design is done in consultation with them. Indeed, give the printer the final sign-off.

These days you can include a personalized URL and a QR code but if your tip or wrap has an order or qualification card, it really doesn’t make sense to give people devices to avoid mailing back the order form. You should get a bigger response if you pay the return postage on tip and wrap order forms, but some publishers have dropped their BRM accounts so yours might have to say “Affix Postage Here”.

If you are selling or offering a new subscription using a sampling program, in many cases, a tip will work just fine because the prospective subscriber has a copy of the magazine in his hands and can determine its value immediately. 

Consider a tip as part of your paid renewal series, especially on the last issue the subscriber will receive, and if you grace your subscription file, I do mean the last issue they will actually receive.


Roy Beagley

Optimizing Your Double Postcard Direct Mail Tactics

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 06/13/2013-16:12 PM


Whether you think direct mail is making a comeback or it never went away, the truth is publishers are returning to direct mail. The good news is that it does not have to be that expensive and a good example of this is the double postcard format.

Double postcards will not work for every publication or occasion—for instance, new magazine launches—but certainly in many cases, especially if your magazine is well-known, a double postcard may be just what you need to get back into the mail. True, you are limited in the amount of copy you can use, but sometimes less really can be more.  

Consider offering “Risk-Free Issues”—always a good seller. Can you give away a gift? If so, why not test a premium offer against a non-premium offer and see what works best for you.

Despite being in the digital age, people still like involvement devices so consider one on the order card. The Spectator magazine once did an offer where the potential subscriber was told in the copy “remove this sticker to reveal an example of The Spectator’s sense of humor,” many people did, liked what they saw and placed that sticker on the order card and sent it back for a subscription.

If you can use the word “FREE” so much the better. I know spam filters do not like the word “FREE”, but it is a powerful word and at least in the world of direct mail there are no filters dictating what words we can and cannot use in copy.

A “reply by” date is also an effective way to move prospects to action, whether this is an actual date or “next Tuesday” or “within the next week.” A “reply by” creates urgency and should prompt the recipient to mail the reply card in straight away so they do not miss a great deal.

To increase response, pay the reply postage for the recipient. This increases your costs slightly, but the increase in response should be worth it. You could consider using a personalized URL, although giving the recipient an option may decrease response. The fewer options offered the better. You don’t want prospects putting the promotion aside so they can decide later what to do.

There are certain design restrictions that you need to adhere to for addressing as well as postal regulations, but any good direct mail writer and designer will already be aware of these. If you need information check the Domestic Mail Manual for specifics.

Double postcards are a good form of direct mail for many publishers and if you have never done direct mail before they are an inexpensive place to start.


Roy Beagley

Telemarketing: A Splendid Circulation Source

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 01/24/2013-16:12 PM


Talking to your customers is always a good thing, and at the moment telemarketing seems to work very well for many publishers—but be careful as you can overstay your welcome.
Avoid the temptation to ask your customers everything in one go. This will confuse some, annoy others and may result in an order not being completed. This is true for both paid and controlled publications, but for different reasons. If someone is receiving a magazine free of charge it is reasonable to elicit some information from him or her; this is the reason they are getting the magazine free, after all.
However, if you ask too many questions it may result in a firm but call-ending hang up. Ask the subscriber if you can send a follow up email with some more questions that it would be useful “for us to know, so that we can serve you better.” If they say yes, the telemarketing company can probably send the email out straight away.
If the person you are calling has paid for a subscription, be careful when asking for information. Many subscribers feel paying for a subscription also pays for their privacy. However, people are also very flattered when you seek their advice or opinion, so how you phrase your question can be the difference between getting the information you want and the aforementioned call-ending hang-up. Flattery is almost always a good thing.
When choosing a telemarketing company, take time to review the references you got from them. Talk to people in the industry to see if they have an opinion. The company you choose is going to represent you in a one-to-one conversation with either your subscribers or prospects—this will reflect on your company so choose wisely.
There are very few methods of promotion where we have direct interaction with our customers or prospects. Telemarketing is one, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression—do not let price be the only factor that dictates your decision. There will always be at least one caller who complains, that is normal. If you are conducting a large program, probably more than one complaint will be received. Calmly call the account manager at the telemarketing company, have them review the call with you and make a decision together on how to resolve any issues.
If you are prospecting for new orders, review the results the telemarketing company sends each day and after a few days of calling, prioritize the calling so that you can get the maximum number of orders for the least amount of money—especially if paying by the hour. Ensure you key each list correctly and that you do measure like for like. Comparing a list that has a 30 percent conversion with 5,000 names called cannot really be compared to a list that has a 10 percent conversion but only 1,000 names called. Many a bad decision has been made on too little information.
For many years, telemarketing was considered the “bad boy” of circulation. Nobody really wanted it on his or her Publisher’s Statement. Now, just like black coffee, eggs, chocolate and red wine—all in moderation, course—telemarketing has a good reputation and can be a splendid source of circulation and revenue for publishers.

Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and consumer publications. He is editor of, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.


Roy Beagley

To Test or Not to Test—That’s Never the Question

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 12/04/2012-14:29 PM


Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a test—you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.

While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the “60 cents” when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panic—but I subscribed all the same.

If you cannot test a price, test a term—$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.

“Pay in Advance” as opposed to “Bill Me Later” is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, “Bill Me” is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a “Bill Me” offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up front—even with a money-back guarantee.

Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it win—price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.

Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a “50% Off The Cover Price” offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, don’t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same result—it probably won’t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.

You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every year—year in, year out—we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, “This has to go, it is awful”—and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.

So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new control—and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?

Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.