Online Campaign's Aim Is Payers; Electronic Newsstand Concentrates on Getting Credit Card Numbers

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To combat the Internet's generally low lead-conversion rate, online magazine retailer Electronic Newsstand, Washington, DC, has launched banner campaign far less focused on click-through rates than on how many credit card numbers it collects.


Electronic Newsstand's Web site at www.enews.com categorizes more than 3,000 magazines by topic, has links to their sites and sells deep-discounted subscriptions on a commission basis for just over 400 of them.


The company's online subscription campaign, created by interactive agency Thinking Media, New York, features two types of banners that Electronic Newsstand began testing on the Yahoo search engine site (www.yahoo.com) in mid-December.


One type features pull-down menus so Web surfers can click on them, choose an area of interest and link to a related page on the Electronic Newsstand site to buy a subscription.


Pull-down menus should boost the campaign's conversion rate, said Brian Hecht, president of Electronic Newsstand.


"People aren't interested in magazines as a product. Their interests usually correspond to an enthusiasm, a hobby or their occupations," Hecht said. "If someone's into pets and we can take them to a page where we have the lowest price on Cat Fancy and eight other pet magazines, that's a qualified lead."


The second banner type allows consumers to subscribe without linking to the Electronic Newsstand site.


"Every time you make people take a step, you take a hit," Hecht said. "The more you can consolidate those steps, the fewer people you'll lose."


Unlike most subscription campaigns sent through the mail, Electronic Newsstand's banner campaign offers no bill-me-later option, Hecht said. Subscription orders on the Web are reputed to have a high stiff rate.


Besides magazine sales, Hecht said, the campaign aims to give Electronic Newsstand strong brand recognition online.


"We're first to market in this niche, and it's never going to be as cheap to buy market share as it is now," Hecht said.


Hecht declined to pin any results to the campaign so far or name sites other than Yahoo, where the banners will appear, but said that as Electronic Newsstand rolls the campaign out, it will be on sites with the Web's most recognizable names.


"The on-ramps to the Internet are consolidating," he said. "Our goal is to have a ubiquitous presence in as many of those places as possible."
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