Magazines have long been among the most sophisticated users of direct mail (for the very latest look at trends, into both direct mail and email marketing by magazines, along with extensive analysis, see DirectMarketingIQ's just released Magazine Publishing Industry Sector Report). Many fine copywriters and designers cut their teeth on subscription packages and developed giant reputations as a result of their ability to sell subscriptions through this channel.
This year the publishing catchphrase is “marketing services” (with of course, a strong social media component). Depending on your definition, magazine publishers have always offered “marketing services,” but today that increasingly has come to mean going beyond custom publishing and targeting “below-the-line” budgets ranging from direct marketing and lead gen to consumer or trade promotion, events, search engine marketing and search engine optimization, video production, social media, even market intelligence. Increasingly, publishers are bypassing the agencies to work directly with the brand on the marketing message.
Amid the economic woes have been constant calls and predictions that mail will get smaller, slicker, cheaper. Frankly, it's a little depressing. Can you imagine the general advertising folks saying their billboards were going to be smaller, their TV ads only 10 seconds long and were opting for bus bumper stickers rather than the bus itself. In a word? No.
2009 was not a kind year to magazine publishers, obviously. Crain's New York Business recently reported that 367 U.S. periodicals closed their doors in 2009 and 64 went to digital-only. However, oddly enough given the economy distress and the explosion of digital media, the pace of decline actually slowed, as 526 U.S. magazines closed in 2008 and 573 went down the tubes in 2007.
One of the best things a direct mailer can do to help craft the most effective direct mail campaign is give the copywriter a sample of the product so said copywriter can personally study it and understand its benefits. But what if you have no samples to offer?
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!
It's been a rough year for publications, including magazines and newsletters. With some closing their doors, others reducing frequency, and others simply slashing staff but trying to maintain the same output (and quality), you'd expect to see less expensive efforts in the mail and fewer premiums in those mailings.
Deluxe self-mailers appeal to publishers for a few main reasons: their creative potential, visibility in the mail, quick production time and low cost. Yet when publishers test self-mailers against more traditional letter packages, they may find that the more expensive letter packages still come out on top.
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.
For some business-to-business mailings, all that's necessary are a lead generation self-mailer, a few benefits and a call to action. However, when you sell a complex product or service, you may need more real estate to showcase your offer.