KY daily strives to build circulation

May 6, 2014

A love letter

to lost subscribers


By Stanley Schwartz

Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary


alentine’s Day was approaching, and the audience development staff at the Lexington (KY) Herald Leader needed a strong and fun approach to reach former subscribers.

Audience Development Manager Corey Elder came up with a letter that would meet both requirements for the 96,000-circulation daily. What better way to reach the former readers they wanted back than a love letter? It was printed to look like handwriting and worded to catch a reader’s eye.

The letter starts off, “What happened to us? We used to be inseparable,” and goes on to seek a reunion with the lost reader.

Vice President of Audience Development Aaron Kotarek said the daily paper, which is circulated through 70 counties in central, eastern and south central Kentucky, uses a variety of letters and enticements to reacquire former subscribers.

This was the first time, he added, that the company, which is owned by McClatchy Newspapers, used this particular letter. They arrived as First Class Mail. Response was pretty good.

“That one received a 2.8 percent return rate,” he said. The number of letters sent out for each reacquisition effort varies, he explained, based on the particular target audience the newspaper is going after. The reacquisition letter also carried a tear-off discount subscription offer the former readers could use to restart their subscriptions. The offers also vary from one campaign to the next.

But don’t think this action-oriented circulation department is not trying to increase its subscriber base with just former readers. In every issue of the copies used for single-copy sales, there is subscription information. These are coded, so that the circulation staff knows where they are receiving the most new subscribers. The same is true of the paper’s online subscription efforts.

Kotarek, who has been with the Herald-Leader since last December, said it’s a joy to come into work every day and find new ways to build the paper’s audience. He has been in the newspaper industry for 20 years and started in circulation right out of college.

The subscriber love letter concludes with “Please call me, e-mail me or write me. I miss you and want you back!”

Who could resist such an offer?

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