Panel: Direct Mail Remains Circulation's Lifeblood

NEW YORK — Direct mail is not dead.

Take the word of senior circulation executives from Guideposts Publications, Meredith Corp., Time Inc.'s Southern Progress Corp. and the National Geographic Society. They were part of a panel discussion moderated yesterday by consultant Tom Corry at the Direct Marketing Association's 19th Annual Circulation Day.

“Meredith has relied on direct mail as the bedrock of our circulation practice,” said Jon Macarthy, group consumer marketing director at Meredith, in front of a packed room of circulation executives from magazines nationwide.

Meredith, publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, acquires 50 percent to 70 percent of new business through direct mail, Macarthy said. The company invests in online marketing and partnerships. But direct mail is hard to beat, especially with Meredith's extensive database of women homeowners nationwide.

Southern Progress, with titles like Southern Living and Cottage Living, gets nearly half of its new subscriptions through direct mail. The company will mail 50 million packages this year. The controlled predictability and the long-term investment in direct mail are key attractions of the medium.

The National Geographic Society, with six titles in the United States, generates 75 percent of its new subscriptions — many translating to memberships in the society — via direct mail. Online marketing and alternative media are other recruiting methods for the 117-year-old society.

“Direct mail has always been the major source for acquisition of new members,” said Karen Rice-Gardiner, director of creative services at National Geographic's marketing services division.

Direct mail plays an equally prominent acquisition role for Guideposts. The medium accounts for 75 percent of new subscribers. The company has a database of 15 million names. Other acquisition media used included agents, online marketing and insert cards.

But “none of them are as effective as direct mail,” said Guideposts circulation director Bill McGlynn, who added that the “list side's always important, but so is the creative side.”

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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