Mail Watch: Publishers Forced Back to Vouchers
For all intents and purposes, the voucher format's grip on publishers' mail plans seemed to be loosening in the winter of 2007 and into the following spring. But then the financial markets nose-dived, taking with them what little money publishers had to invest in more exciting mail. Save for March and April 2009, when publishing mail was lighter anyway, the past six months have produced a reliable return to 40-plus percent voucher use.
The effect of a struggling economy also is causing publishers to pull back on premiums. Use of this tactic climbed to more than 50 percent of mailings between June 2005 and May 2007, before starting a decline that culminated in a 9 percent drop between the periods of June 2007-May 2008 and June 2008-May 2009. And at a time when cash is king, more publishers are making premiums conditional on payment, not response. The corollary to this developing practice is that soft offers have never been more dominant for magazine pitches, accounting for 100 percent of this group's May mail. By comparison, newsletter firms have stuck fast to their preference for hard offers, which came in at a six-month high of 71.4 percent.
Another belt-tightening move from this bloodied but not yet defeated sector? Magazine publishers are playing with paper to design mail that boasts a larger presence in the mailbox, without taking on larger production costs. New to the Who's Mailing What! Archive in May were envelope efforts from Kiplinger's Personal Finance (Archive code #205-174257-0905) and Newsweek (Archive code #201-171629-0905) that use larger outers-a 5" x 11" and #14, respectively-carrying inside components produced with a trim size meant for #9 or #10 envelopes. To keep the contents from slipping around inside, both marketers sealed off the envelopes a half-inch to an inch in from the sides, creating smaller pockets.