Innovative Media Tactics Offer Ideas for Growing 2017 Circulation

Helping circulation pros and media owners grow print and digital audiences with targeted direct mail and e-mail lists has been a long-time focus at AccuList USA, as seen by our many business publication and consumer publication clients.  But today’s challenges in reaching new subscribers, boosting event attendance and promoting content engagement require strategic innovation, and we would point to some great lessons in Editor & Publisher‘s annual feature “10 Newspapers That Do It Right,” which spotlights ideas for 2017 circulation, revenue and engagement growth with applications beyond the newspaper world. Below are just a few of the winning strategies highlighted.

Growth Formula Adds Print Frequency Flexibility to Smarter Retention

Editor & Publisher cites how the Albany Times Union grew its print subscription base by offering more frequency flexibility with a Thursday through Sunday and/or Sunday-only print delivery as primary options. “As consumers continue to downsize their subscriptions to fit into a busier and more digital audience, this change in tactics presented the consumer with flexibility,” Brad Hunt, circulation sales and marketing manager, explained to E&P. The strategy helped the paper secure an additional 5,067 new print starts versus the previous year. With lower frequency delivery options as the primary offer, kiosk and telemarketing vendors wrote an additional 3,907 subscriptions over the previous year, and digital efforts, such as e-mail and online, also secured 714 additional starts versus the previous year.  Then, by restricting discounted offers to 50% with limited exceptions through the year, the paper also countered the past deep introductory discounts that had created higher churn and/or downgrades rates. The paper further cut subscription churn by using data analysis of starts and stops to develop more efficient retention and engagement touch points. As a result, starts increased by 7% and stops decreased by 18%, giving the paper a net gain of more than 1,200 starts over stops for the year.

Unique Content and Multimedia Delivery Capture Audience and Ads

San Antonio’s Express-News is wooing subscribers and boosting ad revenue via multimedia publication of unique local content. For example, in October 2015, the paper launched a 48-page, all-color tabloid magazine, Spurs Nation, about its local NBA team, the Spurs. Full of original and exclusive reporting on the team (80,000 subscribers currently), the tabloid is inserted in the Sunday paper and sold on newsstands. Four months after the magazine launched, a half-hour “Spurs Nation” television show debuted on the local NBC affiliate. Plus, on game days, the paper began publishing a double-truck with a scouting report and feature story. Content was accessible on the paper’s premium subscriber website,, and on a niche site, So, in a single buy, advertisers can get magazine, newspaper, TV show and website ads. Plus, the paper added book publishing this past holiday season, with a Spurs Nation book about major moments in San Antonio basketball. The paper will replicate its winning formula when it launches a new series of daily historical articles, with ad sponsorship, leading up to celebration of the city’s 300th anniversary in 2018. There will be a companion book, covering the first 150 years of San Antonio’s history, and production of daily Tricentennial Minutes on local TV stations next year, too.

Social Media and Event Engagement Target Millennials

Hoping to woo millennials to its print, digital and mobile platforms, Singapore’s Straits Times decided to create Singapore’s first coffee festival to get its brand message to a younger crowd. Over the course of four days last June, the event hosted more than 100 vendors, ranging from cafes and coffee roasters to stalls selling books and home décor. “We wanted to target a millennial crowd in particular, and much of the publicity was specifically created for maximum impact on social media,” Managing Editor Fiona Chan told Editor & Publisher. Since the goal was to get millennials engaged with the publication, the paper’s designated Reading Room at the festival gave guests the chance to interact with reporters, columnists and editors at the Times through a series of hour-long Q&A sessions. “Readers are increasingly looking for more than just commoditized news that they can get for free anywhere. What they want is to engage with journalists and newsmakers, to ask specific questions about the issues that interest them and to obtain detailed answers,” Chan advised. By the end of the festival, the total number of guests was twice the turnout originally expected, so the paper plans on bringing back the event this year at a larger location to accommodate a bigger crowd and more sponsors.

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