Circulation numbers up at Southeast Missourian

Monday, April 18, 2005

In February, the home-delivery circulation of the Southeast Missourian was the highest it has been for that month in 10 years. The momentum carried into March, and home delivery of the region's largest newspaper is up 2.6 percent from last year.

Mark Kneer, circulation and marketing director at the newspaper, said, "We're bucking the industry trend right now. We're experiencing growth in our circulation while the industry as a whole is rather stagnant. Some newspapers are declining in circulation."

Kneer said the newspaper's circulation had showed steady growth during the 1990s, but hit the wall in 2001. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the downturn of the economy caused the newspaper to lose some subscribers. Also, the implementation of the state No Call List during that time had an adverse effect.

"We were getting about 75 percent of our new subscribers from our telemarketing operation," said Kneer. "We couldn't call phone numbers on that list, and when you filter out phone numbers that were answered by answering machines, and people using Caller ID, we were just not getting through to enough people. We ceased the telemarketing operation."

Now, however, there are more subscribers than pre-2001. Kneer said there are several reasons for this.

"We've been putting together some very successful promotions and campaigns. We restructured our efforts in contacting possible subscribers. We have not only increased home delivery but also single-copy sales of the paper," he said.

Sampling has been the biggest payoff. Carriers who drive routes have been putting samples of the newspapers on driveways. Inside the papers are subscription offers.

"It gives people a chance to see what they've been missing," said Kneer, adding that sampling is done along routes in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City and Chaffee. Routes chosen for sampling are generally those with the lowest newspaper penetration. New subscribers along those routes not only benefit the Southeast Missourian, but also the carriers because they are paid on a per piece basis.

New home construction in Cape Girardeau and the surrounding counties also means possible subscribers. Kneer said people are moving into new homes all the time, "so the carriers are also going into these new residential developments."

Another reason for the circulation increase is consistent, on-time delivery. "And in the past we were failing at that," said Kneer. There were some delays while employees took time to work out the bugs in a new printing press installed several years ago.

Now the press churns out papers faster and more efficiently than the previous printing press. Kneer added that the news and production staff have helped with the on-time deliveries.

"The news department is at about a 96 percent on-time rate, and the production staff recently went 37 days in a row in getting all the papers to the carriers on time, and that translates to getting the papers to the customers on time."

Another factor in the circulation increase is the Easy Pay Program. Kneer said many subscribers don't like getting invoices in the mail. This program lets them make automatic payments on a credit or debit card -- monthly, quarterly or yearly.

"This is helping us retain subscribers," said Kneer. "And Easy Pay is also our cheapest rate. There's no hassle of an invoice, and subscribers also get the best rate available."

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