Publishing Gets Personal
Political magazine Reason took personalized publishing to a new height with its June 2004 issue. The magazine sent a unique front cover to each of its 40,000 readers. And, it didn't just personalize the covers using readers' names. Each cover featured a satellite-based picture showing the subscriber's residence pinpointed within his or her neighborhood.
The issue's editorial focuses on privacy and the amount of publicly available personal information about consumers. It also contains a two-page advertisement that includes U.S. Census data from the subscriber's neighborhood and the voting record of the subscriber's congressional representative.
Reason's bold foray into variable data printing, where data or images are varied during one print run, is perhaps a first for magazine publishers. Personalized direct mail efforts are the most commonly used today. And, while catalog publishers are venturing headlong into this territory, they are still the exception rather than the norm.
Diminishing Cost Limitations
Varying data or images on a print run requires connecting the printing process to a database that serves up the content to be varied. So, while personalized mailings have proven to yield significantly higher response rates in direct mail, the substantial technology investment has kept many companies from signing on.
However, more affordable, faster digital printers, along with the increasing quality of marketing databases, are luring more companies to get personal with their audience. Plus, variable printing initiatives are no longer limited to using ink-jet printers to add a name in a different typeface to a magazine cover or at the start of a letter.
The industry's transition from analog to digital printing may be more expensive, but, for some at least, the new capacity to produce personalized small runs justifies the cost in the long term.
Ira Gold, president of printing consulting firm Gold Associates, in Rockaway, N.J., says that some direct mail companies have been hesitant to embrace variable printing because the cost per piece is still much higher than simply ink-jetting an address. While companies understand the potential value of personalizing communications, many are afraid of committing the resources without a guaranteed return on investment, says Gold.