Newsletter No 8 29 November 2005
Advertising & Marketing:
Grow Audience, Not Just Circulation

Newspapers need to think more about growing audience, rather than simply circulation, says Jerry Hall, circulation director of the St Petersburg Times in Florida. He gave some easy - yet extremely effective - tactics that newspapers around the United States have used to expand their audience.

Price vs Discount: Unless you are saying, "50 percent off," it is better to tell someone how much the subscription will cost rather than tell them the percentage discount they are receiving. It helps them determine if the discount is a good value, keeps them from having to read the small print in the subscription form, and produces better results. One newspaper that made this simple change saw their response rates increase from 1 percent to 4 percent.

Promotions that Evoke Emotion: If your local sports team wins a championship, offer your readers a reprint of the front page if they renew their subscriptions. The St Petersburg Times did so when the local hockey team won the Stanley Cup. 10,000 people renewed just to get the front page.

Sell memberships rather than subscriptions: The Sacramento Bee in California created a membership site and charged 12USD per month to join its “press club”. Members received a membership card and received a number of incentives like a ‘deal of the week’ and free tickets to leisure events. Newspapers can further this strategy by partnering with other membership clubs. For example, one publication offered subscribers a free membership to AAA, a club that offers car services to its members in distress. As a result of this particular promotion, the newspaper received over 2000 new one-year subscriptions.

Offer Consumer Based Pricing: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found its multiple pricing offers confused potential customers, so it simplified things and decided to offer a flat rate subscription of 10USD per month, no matter whether the subscriber wanted to receive the newspaper one day per week or for all seven days. This helped to succeed in getting Sunday subscribers back, which had been decreasing for some years.

Permission Marketing vs Direct Marketing: Instead of blindly distributing free copies of the newspaper, The St Petersburg Times called a sample of people and requested whether they wanted to subscribe for three weeks to the newspaper for free. On the first day of the delivery, customers received a glossy card along with the newspaper informing them of subscription costs. After two weeks, everyone participating in the trial period received a phone call from the sales team asking whether they were enjoying the newspaper. They were then offered a special deal on subscription rates if they signed up then and there. The newspaper enjoyed a 21 percent response rate for this strategy.

Targeted Advertising Partnerships: Because there are many new homes being developed in the area where the St Petersburg Times distributes, the newspaper began delivering special coupon booklets titled ‘Welcome Home” that offered a free home pizza delivery and variety of discounts on furniture stores and home maintenance services.