Taking a 10,000-feet view of circulation e-commerce


In the daily grind to get the job done, we often can’t see the forest past the trees. It’s always a healthy exercise to step back to get a little perspective.

I wanted to share with you one 10,000-feet view of newspaper circulation e-commerce during the first half of 2014 with the hope that it will stimulate your short-term thinking and actions.

Let me put this information in perspective. We create and host secure forms for newspapers across North America. Most of those online forms capture newspaper subscription orders or allow subscribers to renew their current subscriptions. Most of those online forms are accessed via links in e-mail messages, so what I am sharing is specific to newspaper circulation e-mail marketing in North America.

It also should be noted that the newspaper markets that comprise these results are not metro markets, but rather have a circulation ranging from 20,000 to 200,000.

A wealth of information related to Web traffic, device types, operating systems, and browsers is available to us as it relates to online circulation forms. During the first half of 2014, the online circulation forms in this study had more than half-a-million page views and more than a quarter million visitors.

Circulation form page view activity by day of week

Most (56%) of online circulation forms were accessed during the first part of the week, Monday through Wednesday. Keep in mind, these results are skewed as most clients tend to launch their e-mail campaigns earlier in the week. It is interesting to note that less than 15% of circulation form page views occur over the weekend.

Circulation form page view activity by hour of day

More than one-third (35%) of circulation online forms were accessed during the morning hours, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Circulation form activity peeked from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

While activity peeks in the morning, it plateaus in the late afternoon/early evening with a slight bump from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. In our 24/7 world, it is still interesting to note that nearly 10% of circulation form access occurs from midnight to 6 a.m.

Devices viewing circulation forms

Most circulation forms were accessed from desktops (67%), followed by mobile (17%), and tablets (16%).

With all the news about the growth of mobile – at least in terms of accessing news content – I was initially surprised with these results. I was quickly reminded that the device type used to access circulation forms is driven by the time of day with desktops dominating daytime and tablets and mobile device use peeking during evening hours.

Observations and implications for circulation marketers

  • When considering this single perspective of circulation online forms, keep in mind that the results presented are for current newspaper subscribers and prospective subscribers, and, in many cases, former subscribers.

    That is to say, traditional newspaper subscribers tend to be older than the population at large, which likely has an impact on what devices are used to access circulation online forms.

  • A growing number of subscribers and prospective subscribers are migrating to self-service, secure, online transactions to purchase and manage their subscriptions. Circulation form access volume grew more than 20% during the first half of 2014 for the markets studied.

  • The growing use of mobile and tablets to purchase and renew subscriptions online – not just view content – reinforces the importance of providing online forms that are user-friendly across all devices and platforms.

  • Newspaper circulation marketers have the opportunity to use their existing audience delivery vehicles (home delivery, single copy, bill stuffers, rack cards) to expand the reach of circulation offers, providing prospective subscribers the option of 24/7, self-service, online response across communication channels such as in-newspaper ads, single-copy inserts, kiosk sales, crew sales, and point-of-purchase.
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