Rodale Mail StoryA Rodale executive at the DMA Circulation Marketing Day 2012 conference said that mobile bar codes can be a great way for publishers to drive magazine subscriptions.

The “Creative Wins Focus On Print” panel presented an overview of how the direct mail industry is changing with digital technologies. The panel was moderated by Susan Allyn, vice president of customer acquisition at Hearst Magazines, New York.
“We want to explore QR codes more and apply them to other direct mail programs that we have,” said Lori Beneyton, subscription director at Rodale, Emmaus, PA.
“We have done a lot to try to drive users to the Web, which a QR code helps with,” she said.
Mobile readers
According to Ms. Beneyton, mobile bar codes helped the publisher’s Men’s Health brand increase email and subscriber rates.
Rodale placed mobile bar codes in the January issue of Men’s Health which took users to a landing page where they could enter their email addresses.
According to Ms. Beneyton, nine percent of subscription orders were placed via the QR code, showing that although mobile is becoming a popular channel for publishers, there are still improvements that need to be made.
However, by capturing email addresses, Rodale was able to reach out to consumers to try and get subscription sales.
Rodale has been using mobile bar codes for direct mail initiatives for the past year, some of which give users a free downloadable gift for viewing the URL that was linked to the code, which is a great way to give users an incentive for scanning.
Mobile bar codes can be an effective way to target interested consumers, but the key for publishers is finding a brand that it makes sense for.
For example, Ms. Beneyton said that although mobile bar codes make sense for the Men’s Health brand, they might not make sense for the publisher’s magazine Prevention, which tends to have older readers.
Rodale has also used personalized URL links that are targeted at users to gauge their interest in a magazine subscription. This is a great way for publishers to customize the subscription process.
Magazine challenges
According to Jennifer Schulties, circulation director of The Week, New York, testing is key for publishers to understand what a magazine’s readers respond to.
In addition to her current experience, the executive spoke about her past experience working at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.
While at Martha Stewart, the publisher also tried using mobile bar codes within its magazine to see how readers responded.
Although the QR codes did not see a significant numbers of actions to a subscription offer, the mobile bar codes did help drive users to a landing page to interact with the brand. Similar to Rodale, the mobile bar codes also helped the publisher capture email addresses to then try to upsell subscriptions.
Additionally, Ms. Schulties said that traditional direct mail practices are still relevant to readers.
For example, automatic renewals are something that many publishers shy away from, but are starting to be more effective if the publisher is upfront and honest about how an automatic subscription renewal will benefit them.
Consumers are also more comfortable giving away their email addresses, especially for transactions, which can help direct mailers target specific offers and deals.
“Direct mail works because we never give up,” Ms. Schulties said.
Tablet bundles
Vladimir Damianov, senior promotion manager atHearst, New York, said that with the growth in digital editions of magazines, the publisher is looking for ways to sell bundled packages – including print and tablet versions – of its magazines via direct mail.
Hearst is currently testing tablet and print subscriber options on three titles – Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver and O, The Oprah Magazine.
Direct mail offers are being placed in the magazines that let users sign up for either the print version or tablet version of a magazine. Additionally, readers can buy both together. The direct mailers were rolled out in January issues of the magazines.
Hearst recently acquired Hachette Filipacchi Media, adding six magazines to the publisher.
Hearst tests sending the same mailers to multiple magazines at the same time to see which magazines respond the best.
For example, Hearst recently tested a mailer that let users receive a free tote bag for signing up for a subscription. The initiative was used in both Country Living and Good Housekeeping magazines. In both publications, Hearst was able to lift the number of subscribers by giving readers a prize.
“Translating success for a multi-title publisher means taking lots of titles and making it smaller and more personalized,” Mr. Damianov said.
“Once you have a successful test with a magazine, the bigger impact is finding a way to translate that success to other titles,” he said.