By Schein, Eliot DeY.
Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management , Vol. 15
When to use cable television to increase subscription sales
The primary medium for generating new subscriptions is direct mail. This is one magazine publishing truth that can truly be called universal. The natural advantage of direct mail for magazine publishers, especially special interest publishers, is that segmented mailing lists are available. Over the past few decades, segmentation has become a precise, refined methodology for reaching a desired specific market.
Print advertising in newspapers, magazines and other periodicals affords a certain amount of finely tuned accuracy, but usually suffers by comparison with direct mail when one considers mail's ability to reach specific Zip Codes, individual persons, and people involved in particular activities.
Magazines such as TV Guide (with its "dictated by content" metro-type diameters of circulation) manage to provide excellent breakdowns of geographical sections of the country. But when you think of it, the magazines that do provide metros and regionals in the most flexible manner (including Time, Newsweek and Playboy) are usually the largest circulation magazines with their special interests least defined. Therefore, in this game of pinpoint target marketing, it seems that the duller the point of the pin, the more flexibility there is in making selections--a fact that in itself defeats the purpose and leaves us with some very dull pinpoints.
Signs of change
Until very recently, the two broadcast media, radio and television, were not considered especially good sources for generating subscriptions to magazines. A primary reason for this feeling was that the broadcast media require no special consumer skill (such as the ability to read) for the consumer to participate as a listener or viewer in that market.
Radio and TV have, however, offered a certain element that those with circulation responsibility need: They provide instantaneous results. If your TV film or tape is "in the can" or your radio commercial is either written on paper or on a piece of audio tape, you are ready immediately to light up the afterburners and send circulation counts skyrocketing.
The down side of circulation generated through broadcast media has always been its failure to produce renewals at rates anywhere near as efficient as those generated from standard direct mail activities. Needless to say, a hard offer on broadcast could produce renewals as well as if not better than a soft offer in direct mail--but copy for copy, approach for approach and offer for offer, the direct mail medium has a very clear-cut leading edge.
But it looks like TV is catching up. Although television may never overcome the pinpoint marketing capabilities of direct mail, the refinements of the medium itself have produced some remarkable opportunities for subscription circulation marketers. The segmentation of television programming, the reduction in cost due to smaller segmented audiences, and the 800 number have all contributed to cable TV becoming a viable medium for subscription circulation.
The way cable companies are set up allows the subscription-seeking publisher to reach metro markets with a variety of programming that makes some special interest publications' mailing lists look quite coarse by comparison. "Cable Network News," for example, can compete in a household-by-household contest with the refined geographies of the large newsweeklies. The "Financial News Network" can now score relatively favorably with most of the large financial publications--and from a tactical standpoint can make The Wall Street Journal's roughhewn regional edition breakdowns seem just about as efficient as old-fashioned vacuum tubes compared to 1986 vintage microchips. …