Surviving Publishing’s Cosmic Shift
The recession is only one factor to hit publishing with an uppercut to the chin. Add the gradual exodus of readers from newspapers and magazines to the more current (and for now) free internet. The brutal tug of war for diminishing advertising dollars. The lack of a sustainable profit model. Rising postal costs. The greening of America. And, well ... so much more!
This litany of changes certainly has had a profound effect on direct mail: Fewer packages mailed. Tweaks on existing packages instead of new creative. The all-too-often reverent nod to the low-cost, high-return voucher.
Just ask any fulfillment house, direct marketing consultant, marketer, list broker or creative about the direct hit to his or her bottom line. On second thought, maybe not.
So what are copywriters, designers, printers and direct mail marketers doing to accommodate publishing's cosmic shift? Where are they now? How are they making a living? The answer is: all over the board. Here's a quick look ...
"Copywriters have an excellent strategy to cope with challenging times," says Don Hauptman, a longtime New York copywriter and author of "The Versatile Freelancer" (www.versatilefreelancer.com). "They can share their knowledge and experience, and get paid for it. Early in my career, I diversified into consulting, critiquing and staff training for client companies, as well as public speaking. This tactic gave me multiple streams of income and a sort of insurance policy in a recession. What's more, these services are often more in demand in bad times, when copywriting assignments may decline but companies still need and want outside marketing guidance-for example, to fine-tune their existing promotions."
"If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevancy even less," says Peter Milburn, owner of RE:DIRECT LLC, a boutique creative shop that receives 80 percent of its revenue from large publishers such as Time Inc., Condé Nast and Hearst. He's had to adjust quickly as clients shifted their promotion budgets from direct mail to predominantly online sources. That has meant replacing fees from seven-effort mailed renewal series with e-bills, e-renewals and other online promotions. It's also meant partnering with other firms to fill in technology gaps. Milburn says, "I have had to work quickly to find the right partners to meet publishers' changing needs. Whereas I used to spend my time concepting packages, now my function involves finding the right subvendors-from web and flash designers to mobile, social media and digital firms that can help build widgets, integrate with Facebook and contribute the expertise needed to execute on a wide variety of digital promotions."