No One Likes a Quitter
Since George W. Bush took office in 2001 amid unprecedented election controversy, paid circulation for left-wing political newsweekly The Nation has increased by a whopping 48 percent.
"Our readers are passionate people who care about the issues facing the countryespecially now," asserts Art Stupar, vice president of circulation for The Nation. "Our repeat renewal rategleaned from multiple sourcesis 85 percent."
Stupar's task to wrangle readers during the Clinton administration was far more arduous, he admits, but now since the store is minded by a man who represents the antithesis of leftist politics, liberal readers are energized.
That's precisely the strategy behind a 4" x 7-1/2" renewal effort dropped in July by The Nation that asks simply if subscribers are "giving up?" (710NATION0703).
"'Don't give up on how to fix your country' and 'don't give up on us,' is what we're saying here," Stupar avows.
As the second renewal effort in a six-part series, the "giving up" package generated a 13.5-percent
response rate in 2002. And while results are still being tabulated for 2003, Stupar believes the appeal will have the same effect on readers.
The letter begins by telling subscribers not to give up on: "[the] right to continue to question the long-range political motives of Washington's decision-makers ..." and "[the] commitment to listening to a variety of voices and opinions."
According to Stupar, the preprinted letter reaches readers of all renewal stages. A subscriber for five years will read the same copy as a reader introduced to the publication six months prior. The only variable in the package is the price, which appears on a separate reply slip. By mailing just one letter version for each renewal effort in the series, The Nation is able to bypass the costs of inkjetting and personalization on multiple versions of letters.
"Our entire renewal series is in this format with a continuous form letter," says Stupar. "However, in going forward, one of the things we're looking at as a review of this [renewal] series is how we could be more timely with the letter."
Stupar cited the famous "sixteen words" in President Bush's "State of the Union" speech as a current example of what he'd like to cover in future renewal letters.
"It's the content we provide that subscribers love to read, and we believe that if we continually tie in political themes, they'll read our direct mail with the same enthusiasm and energy," says Stupar, commenting on The Nation's copy-heavy direct mail appeals. For example, he notes that the magazine's acquisition package uses a four-page letter that dissects up to 13 political issues compelling to liberal prospects.
The Nation's promotions seldom rely on graphics or splashy art treatments to get noticed in the mail stream, since brochures, buckslips and inserts are often left out.
"There's no sizzle without the steak," Stupar says. "We pack a lot of information into our promotions."