Magazine Sub Cards Blow into Catalogs

Catalogers have long relied on special-interest and lifestyle magazines to find customers — either by placing space ads or by renting their subscriber files. But now it seems many magazines are turning to catalogers to beef up subscriber bases by inserting blow-in subscription cards into the catalogs.

Women’s apparel cataloger J. Jill, for instance, has been including blow-in cards for lifestyle magazine Real Simple. Upscale furniture cataloger Design Within Reach included a blow-in for One, a cutting-edge lifestyle/design magazine. And licensed sports apparel cataloger Star Struck included a blow-in card for Baseball Weekly in its spring catalog.

Jason Scheets, director of operations for Bethel, CT-based Star Struck, says the cataloger already had a relationship with Baseball Weekly, since it advertises in the publication every week. “Because of the merchandise we sell and the relationship we have with Baseball Weekly, including its blow-ins is a natural,” Scheets says. The deal was done on a trade basis. About 400,000 of the 700,000 Star Struck catalogs that mailed to customers this spring included the sub card.

Blow-ins are a cost-efficient way for a magazine publisher to reach a catalog’s audience, says Fran Golub, senior vice president of list management for Pearl River, NY-based list firm Walter Karl. “The cost for a magazine to blow in is approximately $35/M, compared to at least $80/M for a list rental — and that’s at a publisher rate,” she says.

Nonetheless, publishers typically “aren’t too keen on [prospecting via] catalogs,” Golub says. “Unless a catalog’s audience is very targeted, they’re usually not going to blow in.”

Depending on what its printer is charging to insert the cards — usually $2/M — a cataloger usually makes some money on the deal, Golub notes. But that’s only if the blow-in doesn’t increase postage costs. “If a catalog is borderline [postage weight], the blow-in could kick it into a higher postage category, and then it might not be worth the cataloger’s while,” she says, adding that the maximum — and average — weight for a postcard blow-in is a quarter-ounce.

Another caveat: A cataloger cannot include blow-ins with mailings to rented names without the approval of the list owner. “Catalogers must clear anything they are mailing to prospects, including blow-ins,” Golub says. “So it’s easier, less restrictive, and more targeted to include them only in books going to buyers.”

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