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

New subscriptions and traffic drives are Hearst's subject line

April 2009 By Heather Fletcher
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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 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’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.

“We’ve also launched multiple e-mail newsletters in the last two years, and in the last year, our newsletter [e-mail] volume has increased more than 50 percent and page views generated have increased over 200 percent,” Bailey Romano says. “We also began testing the effectiveness of short-term and one-off traffic drivers in 2008, and with 6 percent of our total page views generated coming from the limited number of these types of campaigns, we see great promise for growth in 2009.”



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