Need More Readers? Get a Good Database

Advice to publishers targeting Spanish-speaking audiences: If you want to increase advertising revenues and the number of subscribers, get your hands on good customer databases. Because most Hispanic publications are not home-delivered (according to Western Publications Research for 2003, only 3% of Hispanic newspaper revenues came from subscriptions, while 11% came from newsstand sales), publishers targeting the Hispanic market tend to have less information about their customers than most general market publications.

“It's a bit more challenging to get Hispanic customer information,” says Chuck Chapek, former director of database applications at Knight Ridder and currently director of direct and database marketing at Radio Shack. However, he says that El Nuevo Herald has been doing a good job of reaching South Florida's Spanish-dominant households by working with its direct marketing unit Herald Direct.

Many large newspaper chains have huge consumer databases and direct mail operations. Some use these databases to reach Spanish-speaking audiences. Copley Press's San Diego Union Tribune (circ. weekdays 355,771, Sundays 444,527) uses its database to distribute its bilingual weekly Enlace (circ. 33,053), which serves San Diego and Tijuana.

“We use our database to select block groups with high Hispanic populations,” says Ramona Cyr, market research group manager at The San Diego Union Tribune. A few years ago the San Diego Union Tribune ran a direct mail campaign to acquire Hispanic subscribers. Although the response rate was high, the retention rate was relatively low.

The Database, the “Crown Jewel…”

Due to the complexity of the distribution process, especially if papers are being home-delivered, newspaper publishers can gather a lot of information about residents and businesses in their footprint (e.g. new housing developments, new businesses, etc.). Chapek notes that the database (including subscriber and non-subscriber information) is the “crown jewel” of the newspaper organization. “Newspapers are clearing houses for an enormous amount of local and personal information.” Information, adds Chapek, which can be leveraged to attract advertisers and to increase circulation.

…In Customer Acquisition

In the general market, certain publications, like The Houston Chronicle, the Orlando Sentinel and the Fort Worth/Star Telegram, have been very successful at using their database for direct marketing and advertising campaigns. Not only have they been able to offer advertisers more reach through direct mail programs, but, by leveraging subscriber and non-subscriber information, they have been able to acquire more readers.

Databases for direct mail are becoming increasingly important, partly because telemarketing has been on the decline since last October when the national “do not call list” was introduced. Newspaper publishers who have a strong database and efficient direct mail divisions are best prepared to use direct mail as an acquisition tool, says Chapek. Telemarketing is cost efficient, but response rates are low at around 0.5%. “With direct mail, a newspaper publisher can get response rates of between 6-8%, depending on how well the piece was targeted, its price and the quality of the product itself,” Chapek notes.

From Classified Advertisers to Subscribers

Classified advertisers are also potential subscribers according to Chapek. Someone who places a classified ad will be more open to becoming a subscriber. Chapek recommends including a subscription as a “deal closer” in the classified ad agreement.