Similar to the “stat” report in the November Insider on fundraising, the publications sector—facing the double whammy of postal increases and smaller budgets—appears to also have tightened their belts. The publications sector includes magazines (from general interest to women’s to business), newspapers, newsletters and subscription agencies. Comparing the third quarters of the last four years, from July to September of this past year fewer premiums and fewer controls are in the mailstream—and even the usage of personalization and self-mailer formats is down. Of course, not all of this is due to budget constraints, but it certainly ranks as factor number one.
Premium offers always have been popular among publications, and from 2004 to 2006 their frequency grew steadily, from 44.9 percent in 2004 to 53.9 percent in 2005, before landing at 55.4 percent in 2006. In the third quarter of 2007, however, premiums took a dive back down to 2004 levels, coming in at 44.2 percent.
Meanwhile, because many controls went out in larger, now more expensive-to-mail packages, repeat mail took a far steeper nosedive in 2007. After consistently hovering above 57 percent in the third quarter of 2004 through 2006, control mail plummeted to 31.3 percent. The drastic downturn could partly be explained by more experimentation, but, again, even that strategy would have been prompted by the budget concerns.
With gains in personalization technology, one would expect to see more of this technique being applied in publications, yet its usage has declined consistently since 2005, from 16 percent to 13.9 percent this past year. Another popular and often successful move in direct mail is switching to the self-mailer format, but publications practically ignored this format, with only 12 percent of publications going out in a self-mailer after 16.8 percent did so in 2006, 24.7 percent in 2005 and 22.8 percent in 2004.