The inlander

Readers: Give us inserts, not junk mail

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Like many newspaper people, Andrew McFadden was plenty cheesed off when the U.S. Postal Service announced its Negotiated Service Agreement with the big direct mailer Valassis Communications had won regulatory approval. The discount postage deal plainly is aimed at diverting inserts from Sunday newspapers to the mail by offering Valassis substantial discounts, in the form of rebates, that gives it an advantage over newspapers—which already pay higher high-saturation rates for its TMCs—and even over other direct mail companies.

As much as anything, it offended the director of innovation and business development at the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., that the USPS was jumping into the discount deal without considering whether the mail is the way consumers actually prefer to get advertising flyers.

“A few months ago, I was discussing this issue with a few folks from CivicScience, a data partner to many news media companies,” McFadden recalled in his “Mind The Gap” blog he writes for the International News Media Association. “John Dick, CEO of CivicScience, pushed out a question through the company’s national network of news and blog sites.”

It was thorough research: CivicScience surveyed 4,781 print newspaper subscribers, asking how they preferred receiving coupons and other advertising offers. It should be noted that CivicScience produced this research, which stretched over more than three weeks, on a pro bono basis.

Newspapers were a clear winner, with those surveyed professing a preference for newspaper inserts over direct mail by a 2 to 1 margin. CivicScience noted that in such a big sample size, the margin of error is less than 1%.