Post cards are a great way to increase circulation: Big Numbers

May 6, 2014

By Peter Wagner
President, Creative House Print Media Consultants

Every publisher knows he or she needs strong paid circulation numbers to attract additional advertising to cover expenses.

But what’s the best way to promote renewals and attract new subscribers? Is telemarketing the secret? Or is it direct mail? Are newspaper house ads helpful? To see the big picture you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You have strong opinions on how you feel when a telemarketer calls you at suppertime—your current or potential subscribers usually feel the same way.

You can attempt to make subscription calls earlier in the day, but you’ll experience limited success. Most anyone capable of making a buying decision works outside the home during the day, wasting your time.

Calling later in the evening can also boomerang. The prospect is often so immersed playing with the children, completing housework, watching TV or working his or her hobby that he or she becomes upset at the interruption.



At our Sheldon, IA, N’West Iowa REVIEW we’ve enjoyed the most success with direct-mail postcards. We use a wide variety of messages to produce results.

One card is mailed before a subscription is up for renewal. Another card has a “We miss you” message and is sent to former subscribers 10 days after we cancel their subscription.

With our variable entry digital printing equipment, cards are produced with personalized messages or specific individualized offers for the specific person to whom the card is addressed.

Some cards promote extra weeks added to the annual subscription price for early renewal. Another early-in-the- year card offers a variety of special local specials for renewing or subscribing at that time. The value of the free merchandise and added-on deals far exceeds the cost of the subscription. The local businesses donate their part in return for the added slow season traffic they experience.

One more card, traditionally used with one of our targeted market upscale magazines, states we are updating our annual mailing list. The message suggests the recipient order and pay for their copies quickly to assure they continue to receive every issue. Although no upper income household is ever is cut from the mailing list, we generate a huge response from that mailing.



But our best effort, week-after-week, is a bulk mailing to specific neighborhoods or communities promoting subscriptions to the REVIEW. With four counties involved, the post card is designed to put our best offer in front of everyone—current and potential subscriber alike—at least twice a year.

Over the years we’ve offered a number of different reasons to subscribe: discounted pricing, various premiums anywhere from Hardee’s meals to coffee cups and bonus weeks added to the one-year subscription. Hands down, the bonus copies offer has been our best promotion.



But don’t overlook other ways to get your market’s attention. We’ve found it effective to place single-sheet offers under the windshield wipers of our Friday night sports fan’s cars at the local football stadium. The headline says, “Subscribe to The N’West Iowa REVIEW and read all about the game first thing Saturday morning!”

We’ve also had luck working with a local supermarket sharing an 8½ x 11, full-color insert placed into grocery sacks during a three-day holiday weekend.

We produce the insert at no charge and the store inserts them into every customer’s bag. Most of the insert features exclusive grocery and meat coupons, usable the next week. But some of the space, on each side, promotes buying a subscription to The REVIEW, the publication the store uses for the weekly distribution of its regular ad.



Newspaper ads are a pendulum that swings both ways. On one hand you’re mostly preaching to the choir of committed subscribers. On the other, there’s always the chance a single-copy buyer or a relative who regularly “borrows” a paper might subscribe. I find it useful to load newspaper ads with double meanings. I like ads that feature messages that promote the paper’s longevity or key members of the staff. (See the Sheldon Mail-Sun examples on this page.) I then tie in an easy-to-use telephone number and e-mail address for anyone motivated to subscribe.



For many of us the best of days are yet to come. No other local media provides the important consensus and sense of community served up by the “hometown” newspaper. We simply need to continue to promote our proud heritage and years of service.

Any media can offer video, audio feeds and a local website. But only the local newspaper can deliver a regularly produced printed product that unites the town. © Peter Wagner 2014


Peter W. Wagner is publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW, Sheldon, IA, and president of Creative House Print Media Consultants. He is a regular presenter at newspaper conferences and will speak during January at the Wyoming Press Association and Kentucky Press Association conventions. He is also available as well as a new revenue consultant and sales trainer for independent newspapers and groups. He can be reached at or on his cell 712-348-3550.

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