Active Audience

November 9, 2020

As you can imagine, a print magazine’s circulation is always in flux. While many readers renew their subscriptions each year, some readers inevitably move out of packaging, into different jobs within their company.Others leave and take a job with a different company. Still others simply choose not to renew. Whatever the reason, we are always on the lookout for new readers to replace those that leave us.

The traditional approach to getting new readers is to essentially rent lists of readers from other publications that are similar enough (but not head-on competitors). We then embark upon costly telemarketing campaigns, calling those readers on the phone to ask them if they would like to receive Packaging World. Conversion rates tend to be low, since (by definition) these readers have never seen Packaging World before. But this is how it’s been done literally for decades. Magazines essentially swap the same people back and forth. It’s a bit incestuous, and the existing process does not really allow for the discovery of net new audience to the publishing industry, even if such audiences are always new to the advertisers of a given publication.

However, we want to deliver more value for print advertisers, which is why we’ve implemented a different, more meaningful approach in adding to our existing circulation called Active Audience.

PACK EXPO attendees

This is the ultimate buying audience. They are hopping on a plane, flying to Chicago or Las Vegas, to look at packaging and processing products to buy. Why wouldn’t you want these people to see your print advertising, both before and after the show?

As people register for the trade show, we add them onto the print circulation each month, regardless of whether they request to receive it. (And we would only add the true endusers, relying on the algorithm we developed for the show that separates suppliers from end users at scale.)

In the past, as publishers, we have been hung up on whether someone requested to receive the magazine. But we have lost sight of the fact that our main goal is to get your ads in front of people who are in the market for your products. There is no better source than PACK EXPO attendees.

(As we add show attendees to the print circulation, we can replace people who haven’t renewed.)

We keep these show attendee names on the circulation for 6to 8 months, trying to convert them into direct requesters over that period.But the real value for you is that you can continue to market your brand to those folks after the show is over. If after six or eight months we can’t convert these folks to direct request, then we can drop them off the circulation.

Hot new growth segments

There are always certain growth segments that tend to be“hot”. Years ago, it was bottled water. Over the last 2-3 years, it’s been craft brewers (which continues to strongly interest many of our advertisers) and recently, cannabis products.  

We want to deliberately seek out these emerging growth segments, finding new audience that would never be on another publisher’s list or even in a commercial database likeD&B or Info group.

The idea here is to pick the highest value or most promising portion of these lists, and send maybe three consecutive issues of the magazine to them, exposing them to the wonders of Matt Reynolds, Anne Marie Mohan, Keren Sookne and Pat Reynolds (who continues to write for the magazine).

Many of these people are unaware of the amazing solutions you and other advertisers can bring to bear on their businesses and are hungry for your solutions; if they only knew about them. And what better way to create true awareness for your products and cut through the clutter of e-mail than sending them a printed paper magazine (NOT a digital edition!) containing your print ad and PR?

Again, we will follow them and try to convert them to direct request after a few months, eventually dropping those who do not convert.

High-growth companies

What self-respecting packaging supplier would not want to sell their products to the next Chobani or RxBar on a high-growth curve? Consumers want small, local, organic, natural, and want to get away from Big Food. And guess what? All of these new, high-growth companies are in desperate need of your products. With ActiveAudience, they can now discover your solution!

Well, the traditional approach of publishers renting lists from one another doesn’t allow for the active discovery of these companies. We wanted to change that.

The sources and methods we are building to uncover craft brewers and cannabis folks can also be used to uncover high-growth companies in general, whatever the vertical market. We create a steady pipeline of these companies and prospects into our database. Once they’re in our database, we can start sending them the magazine, even as we entice them to the attend the next show. You can build awareness of your brand through our magazine, and you can get them to visit your booth at the show.  

Again, we keep these folks on the list for several issues, and try to convert them to direct requesters. Those that we can’t convert, we drop after a few issues.

Supporting and growing attendees for PMMI’s smaller shows

We know that the people who attend the show tend to be drawn largely from the local area. This localization effect is by definition more pronounced the smaller the show. (Think PACK EXPO East)

The approach here is to do a deep dive in databases likeD&B to find manufacturers that are proximal to the show, who are not already in our database. We pore over these lists extremely carefully, finding the companies and the people who are responsible for buying packaging products.In the months leading up to the show, we add these folks to the circulation of Packaging World. We drive awareness of your products even as we market the trade show to these prospective attendees.Between seeing your products in print (through ads and PR) and receiving marketing from the trade show department, a certain percentage of these folks would be compelled to attend the show. And while we’re at it, you guessed it, we try to convert them to subscribe to the magazine year-round.

Thresholds and limits

So that’s a lot of new names! How does it impact the core circulation?

We wanted to strike a balance between loyal readers who have directly requested the magazine, and up-and-coming buyers we’re always “trying out”, exposing them to the magazine and trying to convert them.

The post office requires at least 50% of the audience be direct request to qualify for periodical rates, but we keep it 70% direct request, and cap these rotating new names at 30% of the circulation at any onetime.

So that means, at any given time, of the 48,000 readers of Packaging World, 38,500 will be on record as having requested the magazine. And that means we have the freedom and flexibility to always be experimenting with an ever-shifting pool of up to 14,400new readers that are potential buyers of your products, exposing them to your ads, and trying to pull them into the PMMI fold.

We also retain the right to optionally send more than 55,000 issues in a given month, if there are enough new people and the opportunity looks particularly good with a particular group of new prospective buyers of your products, without cutting into our core 70% direct request. This is a direct investment into increasing the quality of the print audience.

In essence, instead of spending most of our audience money on calling people on the telephone to maintain a list of 100% direct requesters, we shifted a significant percentage of that investment towards discovery of new potential buyers of your products.Our 70/30 approach makes this possible. The 100% approach prevented innovation and experimentation.

Bottom line

There are benefits to you, benefits to us, and benefits toPMMI and the trade show.

Benefits to advertisers.
The print audience is much more dynamic. By freeing us from the shackles of 100% direct request, we now have the flexibility to constantly search for and reach growing companies who are pre-disposed to buying your products. Also: The more issues you advertise in, the greater total reach and exposure over the course of a year.

Benefits to PMG.
Conversion rates are higher when people have had a chance to see the magazine first, lowering our telemarketing costs. Instead of paying telemarketers exorbitant sums (which doesn’t add much value for you as an advertiser), we plow these investments into our data discovery and enrichment capabilities to find the nextRxBar or Chobani – creating awareness of your products and getting those companies to attend the show to see them in person.

Benefits to trade show.
We routinely uncover and cultivate prospective attendees that are most likely to attend a trade show.



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