Category Archives: direct mail

The Definition of Truth

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of ”truth” is ”a judgement, proposition, or idea that is true or is accepted as true.” This seems straightforward right? I mean..a fact is a fact. Well, as we all know, truth is often in the eye of the beholder. This is why so much misinformation or incomplete ”facts” float around about virtually everything. It’s why two people of similar intelligence can come to two completely different conclusions on virtually any subject. In other words, what I choose to believe may not be what you choose to believe.


At Mediabids we push back against the ”truth” about print publishing and advertising on a daily basis. This speaking into the wind nature of our everyday lives is particularly frustrating when it comes to the truth about weekly community papers. The Tribune (I mean Tronc, I guess), USA Today, New York Times and the big metro dailies get all the attention of the media watchers. You’ve all seen the headlines. The newspaper is dying right?

The truth is print circulation at many of the big metro dailies has declined (but they’re in transition and most are not going anywhere.) Nevertheless, the big metro dailies are also only one part of the newspaper industry story. The truth is that weekly community papers and shoppers are doing well and are very optimistic about their futures (see our most recent Print Observer post, ”The Future of Hyperlocal News.”)

To a certain extent, I’m sure none of this is news to the readers of the Print Observer. However, what you may find newsworthy, is that in terms of performance-based advertising (and all advertisers are demanding more and more performance), weekly papers deliver on par with daily publications. Through the first five months of the year, our direct-response ads in weeklies have delivered a similar number of calls as the dailies:

Per Month, Per Publication (avg.)

Weeklies – 104 calls

Dailies – 146 calls

At least in terms of our national advertisers, dailies clearly do a bit better than weeklies but this comparison needs some qualification. Weekly papers are generally delivered via the mail or later in the day – meaning people read them later in the evenings or over the weekend; the two least likely times for people to respond to print ads. On the other hand, dailies are generally delivered in the early morning. Based on our call volume data, readers then respond to daily paper advertising from 10a-3p weekdays (presumably while they’re on break or at lunch.)

Local news is important and continues to be relevant – not to mention near impossible to find from trusted online sources. Fact is, the local weekly still has a virtual monopoly on community news. Furthermore, local advertisers value being able to reach customers in the communities they serve, at a competitive price point and through a trusted local media source with generally deep roots. Local weeklies have a lot to be proud of – in both serving their communities and in their value to advertisers. No matter what you believe about the future of print, community weeklies are thriving and that’s the truth.

Post by Jim Jinks




Content Marketing Via Newspapers

SF HousesAt Mediabids we recently became aware of a somewhat unique insert program at the San Francisco Chronicle. They call it the ”slim jim.” It’s essentially a multi-page, double-sided pamphlet (full-color, 6 wide x 10.5 tall.) In fact, you may have seen a similar ”insert” from American Express or another lux brand in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Anyway, this got us thinking about inserts and newspapers in a slightly different way.

One unique aspect of the slim jim product is the personalization feature; the inserts are going to San Francisco Chronicle subscribers only. As such, the advertiser prints ”Exclusively For San Francisco Chronicle Subscribers” on the front and back cover. This tactic isn’t necessarily cutting-edge but it is more often used in direct mail than newspaper inserts. Furthermore, the advertiser is using a unique phone number specifically assigned for the slim jim. The calls (both inquiries and sales/reservations) are then tracked back to the paper’s subscriber list. The tracking/reporting allows the advertiser to precisely measure ROI.

A top travel brand has been running the slim jim consistently for the past year. By all accounts it has been a very successful effort. Relative to a simple newspaper display ad, the slim jim really plays to the strengths of the advertiser and newspapers. Indeed, for advertisers and publications, there’s a lot to like about this type of insert product because it is essentially ”content marketing via newspapers.”


There are several reasons why newspapers are ideal content marketing distributors – targeting and context to name two. Affluent households are readers and print is a proven, high-conversion media channel. Insert products, like the slim jim in particular, allow for engaging graphics and copy -qualities that tend to be more appreciated by affluent, print media consumers. Perhaps most important though, good content can further the duo marketing goals of brand and sales. Print display ads, on the other hand, tend to struggle to further more than one objective at a time at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of newspapers as content marketing distributors is not new. Advertorials have been a part of print publishing for generations and we are only a couple of years removed from the ”native ad” craze of the early 2010s.

We are well into the era of digital publishers being content marketers themselves and offering content marketing services to clients. Content is ”king” and print publishers are beginning to catch-up to the idea. Nevertheless, beyond the largest metro dailies, the idea that newspapers (and inserts) are a great way to distribute marketing content may not be top-of-mind in print ad sales departments around the country.

Increasingly, advertisers want marketing campaigns that are cost-effective, measureable, ideally allow for the right amount of personalization and reach qualified consumers or purchasers efficiently.  The San Francisco Chronicle’s slim jim (and similar insert products) check off many of these ”must haves” of smart marketers in 2016.

Post by Jim Jinks




The Parallels of “Print” Advertising and Direct Mail

Direct Mail Words Mailbox Advertising Marketing Communication Me

Here at MediaBids, when we talk about “print advertising” we talk primarily about print ads in newspapers and magazines, since that’s what buy and sell all day long. However, a large part of the marketing world thinks about “print advertising” in terms of direct-mail and other printed marketing collateral. While the delivery vehicles may differ, both forms of print advertising share quite a bit in common.

On Tuesday, NEDMA (The New England Direct Marketing* Association) held their annual conference at Bentley University. I went as an attendee to get some insight into the organization and also learn more about the state of the industry.

The event was very educational, featuring lots of discussions on a variety of topics in the direct marketing world – from copywriting to new trends in direct-mail printing. Attendees at this conference included client-side marketers, direct marketing agencies, printers and list brokers.

The educational sessions I attended focused heavily on direct mail.  There were a few things that stood out to me about the industry, that I think parallel the newspaper and magazine advertising space. Here’s my key takeaways –

1.) Personalization – One of the biggest changes in direct mail over the past decade is the ability to customize each mail piece to the recipient. So much personal data is available out there about everyone – you can virtually tailor each mail piece to a person based on their credit history, interests, buying history, and family details (and the savvy companies are customizing heavily!). Experts in the space were sure to emphasize that with great customization must come great data accuracy. There’s nothing worse than a consumer getting a mailing that is completey off the mark.

Printers are developing technology and techniques to make this dynamic, personalized, digital printing more widely available and more affordable to businesses of all sizes. Hopefully, newspapers and magazines will take advantage of their robust subscriber lists and this new printing technology to create more customized content in their print editions (as well as more customized ads!).

2.) Digital Disruption – Digital advertising disrupted the direct mail industry in a very similar way to how it impacted newspaper and magazine advertising. By providing advertisers with cheaper, more measurable and instantaneous ways to get their message to prospective consumers, many companies moved their advertising budgets  away from direct mail and towards digital. Both direct mail and print advertising providers have had to adapt in major ways to keep up with advertiser demands.

3.) High CLV – Marketers throughout the conference reiterated what we at MediaBids been saying all along about print in all forms – PRINT DRIVES HIGH-VALUE CUSTOMERS. Reps from a wide variety of industries shared their testimonies of the ROI and high CLV of their direct mail advertising, and emphasized that customers who respond to their print pieces stick around a lot longer than customers they drive from digital.

Print advertising compliments any great marketing plan, and thankfully,  printing technologies are evolving to help make it easier than ever before for marketers to deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right customers.

Post by Jess Greiner

*Direct marketing refers to the method a businesses uses to market their product/service. When a business employs “Direct Marketing”, it means they market their product or service directly to the consumer, without a middle-man or retail distributor.