The newspaper that once delivered the headline “Headless Body in Topless Bar” is battling the opposition in the fierce New York tabloid market with a spring direct mail campaign.
Despite double-digit percentage increases in circulation during the past five six-month periods, New York Post circulation director Joe Gilkey is being asked to raise circulation well beyond the current daily total of 620,080, most of which comes from newsstand sales in the New York metropolitan area.
“We're trying to build circulation with a push to home delivery, which is up 30 to 40 percent this year compared to last year,” he said. “We've seen tremendous growth in that area. It's around the 90,000 range. Four years ago it was in the 15,000 range.”
The News Corp.-owned New York Post has met its goal of a 0.5 percent response rate on the 400,000-piece campaign that hit the mail in April.
“We're right around the 0.5 [percent] response, and we may exceed that by the time the offer expires [June 15],” Gilkey said. “Since they have to provide their credit card information to subscribe through this offer, I've got my money. But the important thing is lifetime retention.”
His strategy demands looking beyond what many marketers may consider a low response rate.
“We're looking for industry norms for newspaper direct mail of between 0.1 and 0.5 percent return, and I've never seen it higher in newspapers,” he said. “These pieces are not 'bill me's.' That's why these are the norms.”
The strategy also involves more direct mail and less telemarketing.
“We're doing a lot of testing to see what works, and the reason is the telemarketing laws,” he said. “We're looking to cut back on telemarketing, and direct mail seems to be a good way to get the message out. Our marketing budget had a 75 to 80 percent focus on telemarketing about a year ago. We would like to get it to 50 percent over the next three or four years, depending on our response rates in various marketing channels. We want to generate a longer, more retaining order.”
Names were obtained from “four or five” internal News Corp. lists along with external lists that were purchased. Some of the internal lists were compiled based on contests appearing in the newspaper and from visitors to its Web site. Gilkey described the target as having $50,000 to $100,000 in annual income. Just under two-thirds live in the city, with the rest in the suburbs.
There were two basic mailers, each with two versions: one aimed at males and the other at females.
One piece was a multifold self-mailer measuring 15.25-by-8.5 inches when fully open. Both versions offered 12 weeks free with a 12-week paid subscription for $23.88. People were urged to “Get the scoop, the score, the gossip — delivered to your home.”
But one version contained more copy: “just in time for baseball season a double play.” Above the line was a reproduction of the newspaper's sports-themed back page. The other version had a front-page reproduction featuring a photo of Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio next to a “CITY STRIKE CHAOS” headline in place of the sports-themed back page.
“About 90 percent of those who got the 'double play' version of that piece were male, and the other version had a target that was about 70 percent female,” Gilkey said. “We're seeing a lot more women subscribe with our emphasis on color and fashion. Also, the product has changed so much with the quality of the print and the color, and the layout is much more user friendly and a bit less male-dominated.”
Total cost per piece was 39 cents.
The other mailer came in an envelope. It included a 16.25-by-8.5-inch sheet explaining the offer and had a tear-away card that could be completed and mailed.
One envelope was gold with “NEW YORK POST DELIVERS!” on the front and “THE REAL DEAL!” on the back where a page-one image was reproduced featuring a photo of Jennifer Aniston along with a cover of the newspaper's Grammy Awards preview.
The other envelope was red with “NEW YORK POST SCORES!” on the front with a page-one reproduction featuring New York Yankees star Derek Jeter. The back proclaimed “THE BEST SPORTS IN TOWN. BASEBALL SEASON SPECIAL.”
“The male versions of both the standalone and envelope pieces are running about one one-hundreth of a point behind the overall average,” Gilkey said, “and the 'female versions' are about one one-hundreth of a point ahead of the average.”
The real lesson came in terms of cost between the standalone and the envelope versions, which cost 45 cents per piece.
“I learned that it might not be wise to invest the money on the envelope format,” he said. “I would want to go back to the standalone format next time.”