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Danish Newspaper Uses E-Mail to Fight Declining Circulation

NEW ORLEANS — EkstraBladet, the largest-circulating single-copy newspaper in Denmark, is using e-mail questionnaires to unearth readers’ interests and opinions as a means to foster loyalty to the brand.

Aided by Danish ad agency Gorrissen in Copenhagen, the daily tabloid created a panel of 30,000 readers — 16,000 of them for sports — who offer feedback on various issues.

Sven Michelsen, CRM manager at EkstraBladet, Copenhagen, and Tomas Gorrissen, the founder of his self-named agency, addressed a seminar at the Direct Marketing Association’s fall conference yesterday.

EkstraBladet’s CRM efforts began three years ago to address several challenges. Single-copy newspaper sales are falling, not just in Denmark but worldwide. Newspaper circulation in Denmark has declined in the past 15 years. Five years ago, 10,000 outlets in Denmark sold newspapers. Now it’s 7,000. Families made three to four trips weekly for shopping a few years ago. It is down to one to two trips.

Denmark also has increased competition in media, with free newspapers, television news available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., text TV and the Internet.

“Often when you buy a single-copy newspaper, you already know all the news from TV, radio and the Internet,” Gorrissen said.

The sports section was chosen for the CRM pilot in 2001. A panel of readers was the goal. Readers were invited to fill out a questionnaire printed in the newspaper and mail it back at their own expense. They also could visit an area on the newspaper’s site at www.eb.dk and enter the details.

EkstraBladet wanted to know its readers by name and where they lived. They were asked about their interest in sports as well as the various parts of the newspaper. Ten percent of the responses were mailed while the rest came from the Internet, allowing the newspaper to save considerably on the cost of handling paper responses.

Results helped paint a better picture of the newspaper’s readers.

“It’s the same people that buy the product, but they buy it less,” Michelsen said.

Ninety percent of EkstraBladet’s circulation comes from newsstand sales, the rest from subscription. It has 530,000 daily readers and 490,000 on Sundays. Readership is spread almost evenly across all age groups. A weekday issue costs $1.85. It’s $2 on the weekend.

EkstraBladet copies are sold at full price, regardless of the channel, which is why single-copy sales are preferred over subscription.

“If you sell subscription, you’ve got to discount,” Michelsen said.

With its best customers participating, wooing new panelists requires incentives like premiums.

The newspaper communicates with the opt-in readers on a one-to-one or segmented basis. About 400 e-mails have been sent to the entire database in the past 2 1/2 years.

A result of the CRM push was the creation of the EkstraBladet desktop software, which readers can download from the newspaper’s site. This tool, identified by an icon, lets the newspaper run questionnaires and break news through a ticker. Hot links take readers to the newspaper’s site.

“The most important thing for us is to be on the screen,” Michelsen said. “[Readers] can see the front page of the sports section every day. In the paper, people only see the front page. Now people can see what’s important in the paper.”

The sports panel’s success encouraged EkstraBladet to extend that CRM approach to its entire newspaper. Readers get their own personalized front pages via e-mail newsletters.

Loyalty did breed circulation.

“Newspaper circulation was going down 5 percent, but members in the sports panel bought 10 percent more papers,” Michelsen said.

Sales rose 150 percent on Sept. 17 when the paper ran news of Hong Kong-born Princess Alexandra divorcing a younger brother of Denmark’s crown prince.

“That day made a lot of people in Denmark go down and buy a copy,” Michelsen said.

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