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Why half of your print orders should come from the Internet

27 December 2012 · By Lynne Brennen

New research suggests we need to use every direct marketing tool at our disposal to woo weekday digital consumers to print over the weekend.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism published the latest research regarding demographics of mobile news consumers.

Not surprisingly, the findings were that young, college graduates and men were more engaged in mobile news than print, and the younger audience was significantly less likely to pay for a subscription to news, be it digital or print.

One could view the research findings as yet as another nail in the print coffin. However, in my opinion, one would be wrong.

My opinion is based on experience in digital subscription marketing at both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and, more recently, from in-depth analysis of local newspapers across North America.

Here are three facts for consideration based on that experience:

  • Market research indicates that younger readers of digital news make a distinction between their weekday reading and weekend reading. They prefer the speed of digital during the week, but also enjoy the more relaxed read of a print newspaper on the weekend.

    At The New York Times, this weekday and weekend reading behaviour was described as “the shower versus the bath.”

  • The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both have had significant success with “The Weekender” and “Saturday WSJ,” respectively. These weekend focused newspaper “products” have grown, while full-week or weekday subscriptions have not. 

  • When trolling the range of newspaper sites across North America — the source of content for these young digital readers — it takes exceptional effort to find a print subscription link, much less an intuitive e-commerce process for purchasing the print subscription.

    This experience is widespread and applies to many newspapers, regardless of geography, newspaper company, print/digital strategies or back-end e-commerce solution.

I suspect that the young digital news readers in the Pew research wouldn’t be able to recall seeing a digital offer for a print subscription. How could we expect young readers to subscribe if they’re not asked?

Most digital marketing for print subscriptions that I’ve come across assumes the prospect is actively seeking a subscription and will go to great effort to find an offer and make the purchase. There are very few of those prospective subscribers left.

Today, we need to use every direct marketing tool to present compelling offers, such as a weekend print product for readers of the Web site, with an intuitive, streamlined order form.

If half of a newspaper’s print orders aren’t sourced from the Internet — primarily its Web site — then the newspaper is paying too much for a new print order and leaving a critical group of qualified prospects untapped.

Lynne Brennen is principal at the U.S.-based New Leaf Media LLC. She can be reached at lynne.brennen@gmail.com. 


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The Satisfying Audiences Blog aims to reflect print and digital content not just across platforms but extending into consumer events, non-news-related subscriptions and other audience vehicles for newsmedia companies. This blog written by INMA members is dedicated to identifying the emerging linkages between content, audiences, and platforms. The blog is an initiative by the INMA North America Division Board of Directors.


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