Every company needs a USP. Mail Publisher Solutions has two: they are extremely good at driving up sales and driving down costs.
The company, which as the name would suggest, is part of the Daily Mail Group, specialises in devising bespoke solutions for publishers in the areas of sales acquisition and distribution efficiency.
Crucially, from a publisher perspective, MPS does not have to be your appointed newstrade distributor or subscriptions bureau, for you to take advantage of their services.
“We invite publishers to come and understand our world and those parts of it that can benefit them”, says Head of Sales & Marketing, Tracey Hart (pictured).
Indeed, she says, they are running tests for a major magazine at the moment, trialling various reader acquisition mechanics, including a Wowcher offer and an ad in the Mail on Sunday. If the tests are successful, then MPS will deliver annual acquisition plans for that title, yet using MPS’s full newstrade distribution service is not part of the discussion. Obviously it could be, but the important thing is that it doesn’t have to be.
MPS does provide full distribution services for a growing number of titles, including Jamie, Hello! and National Enquirer and would obviously be happy to take on more, but Tracey is realistic enough to know that lots of big magazine titles are locked into contracts with their existing distributors.
Similarly with subscriptions fulfilment, MPS handles all the Daily Mail subscribers in-house and offers subs fulfilment to third parties; Jamie being one. Where MPS handles the newstrade distribution for a title, then it would make sense for them to handle subs fulfilment too, but outside of this, MPS is not touting for subs fulfilment work per se, because, says Tracey, the margins are low, and their subs fulfilment offering is unlikely to differ hugely from that of the other major bureaux. It’s not their USP.
Tracey is much more interested in offering subs marketing services as opposed to fulfilment services: “We can offer a subs acquisition plan, where we would say, for this amount of money, we can offer you 10,000 new subs”, she says. “Unless we can bring value to it, we’re not just a sausage factory. What we are particularly good at are marketing plans, promotional ideas and acquisition intelligence.”
MPS is essentially the circulation department of the Daily Mail and they offer a range of publisher solutions to third party publishers. They used to go by the name of ‘Advantage’ and were treated as very much a separate entity within the Mail operation.
“They were in this building, but not benefitting from it”, recalls Tracey. “A lot of the success we were having with the Daily Mail was not transferring to Advantage clients.”
So the decision was made to fully integrate Advantage into the day-to-day operations of the Mail circulation department, and it was rebranded last summer as Mail Publisher Solutions.
It’s all about sales
MPS is very good at selling magazines. There is no magic formula; they simply use the huge power of the Mail brand to drive magazine sales through promotional opportunities in the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, Metro, MailOnline, Wowcher and the Local World stable of regional papers. In addition, the Mail Rewards Club attracts 800,000 people every day, and this provides further promotional opportunities for MPS clients.
The figures are huge. Eight million people read either the Mail or Metro every day; in April, 3.5m unique UK visitors accessed MailOnline (along with umpteen gazillion more from overseas), and, on top of that, you have the readership of the Local World titles, like the Bristol Post and Stoke Sentinel.
The stock of advertising inventory contained across this portfolio of media brands is vast and MPS clients have direct access to it.
On top of that, they have a database of 20 million people who have interacted in some way with a Mail brand.
As a result, the Mail has become extremely expert at data mining and segmentation, using the vast volumes of data to build deep level profiles of people, which enable extremely well targeted marketing offers.
“Data is king”, explains Tracey, “and we have a large CRM team, constantly building and refreshing the data to improve our understanding of customer behaviour. The way we work is to find the right audience and spend our money in the right places.”
Tracey drew a compelling, if somewhat Big Brother-ish, picture of a woman who bought the Daily Mail; they know her age, where she lives, what car she drives, how many kids she has, the fact that she’s trying to give up smoking (she took up an e-cigarette offer on Wowcher), what she likes, what she doesn’t; so when it comes to marketing to her, the chances are extremely high that they will offer her something she wants!
This in-depth market knowledge is an integral part of MPS’s offering and underpins the marketing plans they devise for clients.
Clearly titles like Jamie, with a synergistic fit with the Mail (female and middle England) stand to gain hugely from using these promotional opportunities, but MPS also provides opportunities for titles where the fit is not quite so close; for instance TES and National Enquirer.
With their newspaper heritage, MPS “works at pace and makes things happen. It’s all about today”, says Tracey and whether that is allocating waste copies of National Enquirer magazine for a insert promotion in a Local World title, or hoovering up unused Hello! t-shirts to place into £3 goodie bags to be sold from the MPS stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition, stuff gets done.
Mail Publisher Solutions is a 24/7 hyper-active operation. It has to be – because it delivers newspapers and the logistical and support operation underpinning it has to be infinitely flexible to cope with delayed print times, changed copy allocations, and front page rewrites, something which had happened the day before I met with Tracey as the tragic events at Woolwich unfolded.
The power and reach of the Mail brand provides the sales acquisition opportunities; the logistical efficiency of their circulation operation opens the door to significant cost savings.
“We have stripped out costs in excess of £1m from Local World, and we could do the same for other newspaper groups.”
Local circulation offices, continued use of direct delivery to newsagents (when they could use the wholesale network) and merchandisers (when, says Tracey, only one in four merchandiser supplied top-up copies actually get sold), inefficient copy allocation systems (which means many publishers settling for waste levels of 20% when MPS typically works at 10% for the Mail), and continuing use of manual instead of electronic systems mean that there is a great deal of cost still to be taken out.
“Using MPS will probably mean reduced headcount, but can regional publishers afford to persist with costly distribution operations?”
“Could MPS provide distribution services for the whole regional press,” I ask. “Why not”, says Tracey, “we don’t want to own the local press; but if you want to take cost out of your business then talk to us.”
The challenge for MPS was, she said, for them to identify the right people to pitch to. It probably won’t be the circulation director… turkeys voting for Christmas and all that!
As a result of such sensitivities, MPS is not doing the hard sales pitch. Instead, Tracey invites regional publishers to “come and see what we do; come and experience what our department might be able to do for you.”
Too many publishers are still oversupplying the market, accepting waste levels of up to 50%! Chuck enough mud and hope that some of it sticks seems to be the strategy, but Tracey is convinced that the powerful copy allocation systems contained within their CIRCNET system could save publishers a fortune in printing costs and boost sales to boot. “It’s about working smarter. Our approach is: less copy, right place, more sticks.”
Sophisticated reporting tools is one aspect of the MPS service that Tracey is particularly proud of. The Daily Mail is a very demanding client, and MPS has had to create extremely powerful and easy-to-access reporting systems.
An industry in turmoil
On the magazine front, Tracey is expecting the next set of ABCs to show near 20% declines in some magazine sectors.
Even the mighty Mail is tracking at 5% down in circulation terms, yet MailOnline rules the online world and MailPlus, their new paid-for app is showing some encouraging early signs.
Is the app where everything’s heading, I ask.
“Who knows”, admits Tracey. “We are knee deep in trials, looking to understand print and digital. You name it, we’ve got a trial on it. You need everything in there, and what’s going to rise to the top is anyone’s guess.”
So, for instance, the Mail is doing a lot of partnering with retailers like Waitrose and WH Smith using their loyalty card schemes, with a great deal of success. Conversely, it also recently did a 20,000 door-drop promotion for their home news delivery (HND) service in the Ealing area of London, and got two takers. Ouch! Perplexing, because the Mail has 300k HND, so clearly HND is an important component of the Mail circulation!
Like everyone else, the Mail is testing away furiously. Unlike everyone else, being a global media brand, the volume and range of testing is huge, and as each new test is concluded the company’s bank of knowledge grows. The key point here for MPS clients is that this accumulated learning directly benefits them, because the people who are doing that testing are the same people who are putting together your marketing plans.
Mail Publisher Solutions doesn’t want to be the biggest distributor; it doesn’t want to be the biggest subs bureau either. It wants to offer those parts of its services which can bring win-win benefits to publishers. And, says Tracey, they deliver.
As US comedienne Lucille Ball once said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”
Perhaps MPS could do something for you. Why not call Tracey for a chat?
Mail Publisher Solutions
Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT
Head of Sales & Marketing
020 3615 2750
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