Cover Story: Subscribing to Hearst’s E-mail Philosophy

Sharon Bailey Romano, e-mail marketing director, Hearst Digital Media

Hearst Magazines Digital Media, a unit of Hearst Corp., created a six-part “Earth Month” series of e-mails directing subscribers of various magazines to Hearst’s online property, TheDailyGreen.com. This is an example of the House Beautiful e-mail.

Hearst Magazines Digital Media, a unit of Hearst Corp., created a six-part “Earth Month” series of e-mails directing subscribers of various magazines to Hearst’s online property, TheDailyGreen.com. This is an example of the Popular Mechanics e-mail.

Hearst’s November to December 2008 holiday sale, in which every title cost $5, normally pulls in the highest response rates and the most profit of the year. In 2008, the launch of Food Network Magazine changed Hearst’s e-mail subscription campaign history. Hearst is able to make the $5 offers on the digital platform only because of its low cost, but direct mail has not yet seen $5 campaigns.

New subscriptions and traffic drives are Hearst's subject line

So House Beautiful and Popular Mechanics don’t have much in common other than their parent company, Hearst Magazines of New York, right? Well, no.

As it turns out, readers of both magazines—as well as other Hearst titles, including Country Living and Good Housekeeping—are interested in being environmentally conscious if it’s affordable. So Hearst targeted each magazine’s subscribers in a six-part “Earth Month” e-mail campaign. Recipients responded by heading to Hearst’s TheDailyGreen.com in droves. There, House Beautiful readers could learn how to save on organic food while Popular Mechanics subscribers could research the “10 Most Fuel-Efficient 2008 Vehicles.” Meanwhile, the print magazine subscribers were helping drive traffic on the “green Web site for regular people” by clicking through and accounting for 25 percent of TheDailyGreen.com’s April 2008 traffic.

Understanding its readers this well and aiming targeted e-mail campaigns their way is just one example of how Hearst is accomplishing its main e-mail marketing goal of subscription acquisition and traffic driving—objectives chosen primarily because of their measurable returns on investment, says Sharon Bailey Romano, e-mail marketing director in the marketing and audience development area of the digital media division of Hearst Magazines, which is a unit of Hearst Corp.

Hearst’s first e-mail campaigns began in 2003 but aimed for the stratosphere starting in 2005. Bailey Romano says since 2005, Hearst has almost quadrupled the new subscription acquisition e-mail volume and now sends tens of millions of messages each year. Those campaigns have translated into five times as many magazine subscriptions originating from the publishing giant’s e-mail efforts, totaling 20 percent of Hearst Magazines’ new subscriptions that come in yearly via digital means. The remaining 5 percent of the digital total includes subscriptions that arrive from branded and third-party sites, making overall digital the source for 25 percent of Hearst’s new magazine subscriptions.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
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