Blood-Horse Publishing's Circ Director Pushes Online at Folio

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NEW YORK--Gene Sittenfeld, circulation director at Blood-Horse Publishing, made obvious to yesterday's Folio:Show attendees of his preference for online marketing.

It's mostly cash offers online and a faster sell than direct mail, he told the room of circulators at the conference for media executives. And then he disclosed another open secret: "I don't want to say it loud, it'll almost jinx it -- no postage."

Sittenfeld was one of three panelists discussing strategies for a circulation environment affected by several changes: direct-to-publisher, agent-sourced subscriptions, new auditing rules and technology.

Internet marketing was one way to adapt to these changes since online readership is up. However since the same readers tend the visit the site repeatedly, publishers should vary their Web ads more often.

"If they don't respond to one ad, they'll respond to another," Sittenfeld said.

Web sales should be geared in a way to turn surfers into registered readers and then into subscribers, he said.

Some things never change, however. Benefit-oriented marketing and the value of testing are constants. So are issues to consider like what makes the publication different from its competition, talking to the editor to get a sense of the title's personality and discussing economics with the ad sales staff.

Among the several tips Sittenfeld offered, one about the "Please reply by" line made obvious sense. He recommended that line's insertion at the end of every letter to give it a sense of urgency. Also, publications should polybag their bills along with the subscriber copy and do the same with renewal calls.

Pricing is a difficult nut to crack. As Sittenfeld pointed out, $14.95 for a subscription still works better than $15. And for those publications that can't get past the $20-mark, he suggested charging $19.97 plus $3 for postage and handling to bump up the price.

Overall, publishers should make it easier for consumers to order or subscribe online, Sittenfeld said. He reminded attendees that they are in the information business, not in publishing and printing.

Magazines and newspapers should seek more electronic renewals and sales since "everything's about oil," he said, referring to the cost of transportation that ultimately affects offline marketing.

The No. 1 job should be customer service, Sittenfeld said. Love your customers, he said, citing the "Rule of 70." Someone once figured that 70 people go to the average wedding and 70 to the average funeral, so if you upset someone, they will tell 70 people.

He closed his talk by reciting the circulator's anthem: "In God we trust. Everybody else bring data."

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