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Famous Last Words: Make It Easy to Order

October 2006 By Denny Hatch
Magazine blow-ins—the little subscription cards that fall out of magazines—are very efficient in bringing in new subscribers. The reason is obvious. If a non-subscriber reads an article in a magazine and wishes to subscribe, the means to do so is at hand. All you do is fill in the postage-paid card and drop it in the mail. The magazine starts arriving, and you pay the bill.

Blow-ins (and bind-ins) work. They are responsible for an average of 12 percent of new magazine subscriptions at a cost per order of $5 to $10—peanuts compared to a direct mail shot.

Blow-ins also irritate people. Back in 1987, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin went on “The Tonight Show” and told Johnny Carson’s audience of millions that any time they came across a subscription card, they should write a cute little message to the circulation people and drop it in the mail without ordering. The magazines were stuck paying postage. He also wrote this suggestion in a syndicated newspaper column. I wrote in the June 1987 issue of WHO’S MAILING WHAT!:

What Trillin at age 52 has revealed is a very sick mind—the same brat mentality of the adolescent computer hackers who create Trojan horse programs, causing hard disks to crash with an “Arf! Arf! Gotcha!” appearing on the screen. Trillin may be sicker. Where these computer weirdos create random evil, Trillin dives kamikaze-like into the very industry that gave him a voice and made him rich.

I went on to suggest all readers of WHO’S MAILING WHAT! get blow-in cards from The New Yorker and all other Conde Nast publications and write on them, “Calvin Trillin says hello!” and drop them in the mail.

Readers responded with gusto, happily sending Trillin’s greetings to the circulation people and telling their friends to do likewise. The result was a stinky-poo that got national attention. I got a whiny call from Jonathan Newhouse urging me to call off the dogs, and he even sent a stunning blonde from his circulation department over to the WHO’S MAILING WHAT! booth at Direct Marketing Days New York to plead Conde Nast’s case. I loved it!

Hearst’s Goofy Decision

According to The Wall Street Journal, Philips Electronics paid Hearst magazines $2 million not to include blow-ins in four titles—Redbook, O at Home, Weekend and House Beautiful. “Each magazine will instead run a two-page Philips ad with the line, ‘Simplicity is not having subscription cards fall out of your magazine,’” wrote Brian Steinberg in The Wall Street Journal. “The ads give information about Philips-branded Web sites, created specially for the promotion, where readers can subscribe to the magazines.”
 

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