English or Spanish? Publishers Debate Best Pitch

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NEW YORK - The best way to attract new magazine subscribers in Latin America is to send out an introductory package using a mixture of English and Spanish, according to the National Geographic's Kathy Gallagher.

Speaking at the Annual Publishers' Multinational Direct Conference held this month in New York Gallagher said that "We sent out introductory packages in full English, full Spanish and a package in both Spanish and English. The hybrid package worked the best. Don't ask me why." National Geographic's hybrid package contained an introductory leaflet in English and an order form in Spanish.

But other publishers at the conference reported different experiences when they used Spanish in direct mail packages destined for Latin America.

Business Week found an introductory package in English brought the highest response.

"'Test it first' has always got to be the message," said Jeff Fisher, manager of subscriber acquisitions for Business Week, who added the magazine's recent campaign in Latin America had produced "extremely positive results".

The Economist has never used a Spanish pitch but may do so in future subscription offers, the magazine's promotions manager, Hilde Sprung, said.

"We have never tried Spanish, there has been a lot of resistance. The Economist is written in the highest level of English. Generally, readers are very fluent in that language if they are reading the magazine.

"Also, The Economist is not published anywhere in the world in any language other than English," added Sprung.

Publishers interested in expanding in Latin America should enter the market with care, warned a speaker at the conference, list broker Cornelio Bos, Director General of Direcciones in Mexico,.

"Have translation rewrites double-checked. So many companies don't do it and wonder why response is so low. Also be aware of what Spanish you use.

"The Spanish used in Mexico is different to that used in Argentina. The best bet is to use Colombian Spanish as the most common denominator," said Bos. Getting names and titles right is also crucial, he added.

Al Goodloe, Publisher and Editor of Publishers Multinational Direct, said of his experience in Latin America, that "a warm friendly tone and personal touch is important. The Latin Americans love personalization".

He found that creating a sense of "membership" when offering magazine subscriptions was helpful as was continually offering something new.

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