Magazines

5 Ways Magazine Publishers Can Maximize Postal Savings

By: D. Eadward Tree

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A big party I recently attended illustrates a principle behind what I’ve consistently found to be the greatest source of waste, the greatest source of potential cost savings, and the biggest differentiator between competing printing proposals for all but the smallest-circulation magazines.

And because of likely regulatory changes, new opportunities for postal savings (or waste) are likely to arise, even for publishers that already have their houses in order.

As we entered the celebration, my companions and I were directed to a row of tables to pick up our preprinted, must-be-worn nametags. We acted on instinct: Ms. Bush veered to the left toward the beginning of the alphabet, Ms. Leaf headed straight toward the middle, and I bore right toward the end of the alphabet.

It’s then we discovered why so many people were milling about and calling out to each other: The 300 nametags were placed on the tables in random order.

The simple solution, of course, would have been to presort the digital list of attendees in alphabetical order before printing the nametags. In the same way, it’s much easier for a publisher to presort its mailing list so that addressed copies can be grouped by metropolitan area, ZIP code, and letter-carrier route than it is for the U.S. Postal Service to sort through randomly addressed magazines.

When the postal presort process works well, most copies end up in bundles that contain at least six copies for the same carrier route. If the printer has enough volume and a strong transportation network, most such carrier-route bundles are placed on pallets and dropshipped to a USPS facility close to the final delivery addresses. Freight and handling are minimal for the Postal Service, except for the letter carrier who opens a bundle, sequences the copies with her other mail, and delivers them.

USPS rates and discounts reward such efficiency, charging only about 25 cents to deliver each half-pound (about 140-page) magazine under this scenario.

But for a nationwide mailing list of only a few thousand addresses, most copies end up in sacks (the Postal Service hates sacks), are handed off to the USPS far from their final destination, and go through multiple handlings before being delivered. The postage for that same140-page magazine under this scenario could cost 65 cents.

Contrary to what some critics have charged, the deck is not stacked against small-circulation publications. Printers often use co-mail or other mail-consolidation techniques to combine multiple publications into one large, efficient mailing. And larger publications often have multiple versions that can split their mailing into numerous small, inefficient lists.

The Postal Regulatory Commission’s recent proposal to bail out the Postal Service with additional rate increases is likely to be challenged in court. (See USPS Bail Out Could Hike Postal Rates 41% in Next Five Years.) But one part of the proposal makes perfect sense -- forcing the Postal Service to provide rate discounts more in line with its resulting cost savings.

The incentive to move copies into carrier-route bundles would increase by at least 25%, perhaps moving add-a-name from an exotic tactic to the mainstream. Enhanced discounts would up the ante for printers, perhaps leading to better dropshipping or more multi-title firm bundles.

Here’s a guide to getting the maximum savings out of your postal presort and to being prepared for the coming regulatory changes:

  1. Be choosy about printers: Unless postage is less than 25% of your production costs or your audience is geographically concentrated in one area, use a printer that produces enough magazines to offer mail consolidation and an extensive dropshipping network. A less specialized printer can’t save you enough on printing to make up for the lost postage discounts.
  2. Make postage part of any printing negotiation: Give the competing printers a copy of your mailing list (under a non-disclosure agreement) and see what kind of postal savings they project or will even guarantee. Not all presort tactics or co-mail programs are the same, and in some cases such alternatives as selective binding may work better.
  3. Combine all your address sources: Some publishers have multiple address lists – e.g. subscribers, advertisers, VIPs, and hair salons. Unless one of these groups gets a distinct edition, present them to the printer as a single list, even if they’re going to be co-mailed. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying the printer for some false savings – savings that you could have achieved on your own just by consolidating your mailing list.
  4. Optimize your versions: I once worked with a title that had more than 40 different versions because of regional and demographic sections. Some versions -- such as the one for women in Southern California who got a “last-copy” cover wrap -- were sent to a fraction of 1% of the entire mailing. A few simple rules -- such as creating only one edition for each cover wrap -- cut the number of versions by more than half, generated huge postal savings.
  5. Press for creative solutions: The 10-cent postage reduction for each copy moved into a carrier-route bundle, plus the benefits of dropshipping, are so great that printers often stop there. But if you often mail multiple copies to the same address (as happens for many trade publications), firm bundling can yield significant savings even if it means pulling some copies out of co-mail. With add-a-name, carrier routes with exactly five copies get an additional copy, resulting in a lower postage bill despite mailing more copies. With a bit more work, large co-mail pools may be able to achieve more savings from high-density carrier routes and from dropshipping to USPS delivery units.

What Happened to Creative Subscription Marketing for Magazines?

By: John Morthanos

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As an outspoken advocate of newsstand sales and someone with experience in circulation marketing, I find there is a correlation between the loss of newsstand sales and the reduction in creative direct response subscription marketing.

Sure, today there is a heavy reliance on internet sales … whether it is going through online subscription agents including Amazon.com, Magazine-Order.com, or the publisher’s home page. But the effort to reach out and “touch” real people is lost completely on these digital channels, and in doing so, selling the concept of a magazine and its contents is also lost.

Magazines Aren't Selling Themselves Well Online

Go to a website of interest … let’s say you’re looking for a leek soup recipe as I did this morning. I found over 6 million potential sites that have this recipe. Go to any of the sites and if it is not a specific magazine site like Martha Stewart for example, there is no obvious promotion to a specific magazine or a site to subscribe to. One site had ads for a furniture company, a national chicken brand. The Martha Stewart page did have one ad for three magazines for “just $10” … but no promotion for specific titles or how they will help make you smarter, thinner, happier, more satiated, or whatever.

At the bottom of the site there is a listing of approximately 10 titles sold by Meredith and AllRecipes.com (part of the Meredith Women’s Network), but no pizzazz, bang, direction to the wonders of the magazine or its contents. Just a listing of 10 titles. The site provided no reasons to go to a store to thumb through an issue and see if it is for you. Nothing to impel you to buy the magazine, or in the words of the classic 1973 National Lampoon subscription ad, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”

The National Lampoon ad created a great deal of buzz. It got rave reviews and a great deal of hate mail. It was publicized in daily newspapers and national magazines, and in the end, it drove consumers to newsstands to see what this magazine was all about. It also sold subscriptions -- a big win for the creative circulation team.

Looking Back at the Creative Subscription Offers of the Past

When I was hired in 1983 to be on the circulation creative services team for the newly formed Ziff-Davis Computer Division, Karen Weinstein, the art director, and myself were given the task to create ads that would spur interest in the new line of personal computers that sat on a desk top. The purpose was to generate excitement for a new industry, new magazines, and develop the groundwork for the future of personal computing. This was the vision of Larry Sporn, the president of the Computer Division and Carole Mandel, the VP of circulation.

Karen and I created the ads. As we called it she was the music, I was the words. These campaigns opened consumers’ eyes to personal computing and created a buzz that made Ziff-Davis the leading computer publisher in the U.S.

In 1984 IBM was planning to release PC Jr. computer for the home. Larry and Carole tasked Karen and myself to come up with a direct mail and print campaign for the magazine product that would accompany this computer launch.

Little did we know that we would be opening a crystal ball to the future by doing a simple visual ad with limited copy predicting home networking, banking from your bedroom, recipe collection, or game playing. We created the buzz, sold the magazine, and got paid subscriptions for a full year.

Successes like this were not only limited to the ingenuity of the Ziff-Davis computer magazine management, but to most domestic magazine publishers.

Direct mail campaigns, print ads, and cross promotions built title awareness that reached across all demographics. Whether it was the cross-promotion with Maxell Video Tapes and Video Review magazine in 1988, where each Maxell VHS tape had a “mini-mag,” offering a trial subscription and a promo code for selective retailers that sold the magazine at a discount. This worked so well, and demonstrated to Maxell that women were also buying VCR tapes, that it opened up new avenues for Madison Avenue to run video tape ads in magazines like Ladies’ Home Journal and Redbook. It also increased our circulation for Video Review.

A promotion in 1978 with Campbell’s Soup and Marvel Comics helped the newly reformed Marvel to reach new audiences, and was the germ of a growing business.

An End to Direct Response Subscription Marketing?

I’m sorry to say we don’t see these types of promotions anymore. I cannot remember the last direct mail package I have received for any magazine. Only a few bother to send renewal notices via snail mail. They depend instead on the internet and auto-renew programs.

Open any webpage and you’ll get hit with pop-ups (if you have your ad blocker turned off), and either you click around them or ignore them until the 30-second display has turned off. We see that reliance on digital media has cut into print sales – both for subscriptions and newsstand. I don’t think the reduction in newsstand sales is solely because of digital media. There are people reading in-depth analysis of new urban artists in Juxtapoz Magazine or in-depth critiques on the Battle of Normandy in World War II Quarterly Magazine. These magazines are selling on the newsstand and in their subscription programs. Other magazines are crying foul and it may be because of their reliance on the convenience of the internet marketing and the absence of being creative daredevils.

The loss of creative direct response marketing and the new “breed” of publishing execs who value short term growth and quick decisions to reduce or eliminate print are slowing down growth in today’s print environment.

We see retail venues like Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and Chapters-Indigo in Canada increase the number of print titles, and in some cases, represent the majority of sales for niche publishers. I say this and use the word “niche” because in 1983 PC Magazine was a niche magazine, only to become one of the top selling circulation magazines (both newsstand and subscription), until the audience of PC Magazine used the digital technology it touted and devoured itself.

But digital cannot devour History, Art, Sport and other magazine categories – it can help these categories grow in print by using creative platforms to direct consumers to retail and print subscriptions.


How Short-Run Print Can Activate Lucrative Niche Audiences

By: Ellen Harvey

On the web, publishers have become adept at launching niche content verticals to engage very specific, often highly-monetizeable audiences. On the flip side, due to the economics of printing, publishers have historically had to take a one-size-fits-all approach to printed content.

However, advances in digital printing and data integration are making targeted print more feasible and in turn opening up new business opportunities for publishers. Using audience data to serve up short-run print products that are highly relevant and hence more valuable to the end user will breathe new life into publishers' print business, says John Conley, print expert and CEO of Borderland Advisers. And some publishes are already innovating in this space.

In the video above, Conley explains the business model of a hyper-targeted, digitally printed magazine called Cobblestone Living, which serves an affluent neighborhood of approximately 500 readers. A targeted magazine that serves this community is incredibly valuable to the reader and the advertiser because of its ability to serve a unique need, explains Conley. Digital printing, paired with publishers’ audience data, can unlock new revenue opportunities within hyper-targeted audiences like the one described above.

Conley is an advisor and speaker at the upcoming conference DigiPub: Harnessing the Power of Data-Driven Print. The conference will gather publishers and marketers on November 16th in NYC to discuss new opportunities in digital printing and data targeting. The conference is free to attend for executives in the magazine, catalog, and book markets. Learn more about DigiPub here.


Author: Ellen Harvey

Source: pubexec.com URL: https://goo.gl/TSDWuX