Direct Response Copywriter Critiques New York Times Letter

I look at all the direct response media I get in the mail. I got a letter from the New York Times trying to persuade me to subscribe to their "Weekender" which is delivery on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The offer: 50% off. $5.20 a week. Free all digital access.

It's a four color legal size piece. General copy on the front with "9 reasons to get The Weekender now" on the back. You might have thought the New York Times, with a TON of direct marketing talent on its doorstep, would produce a better piece than this; it's a 2/10. Let's take a look at the mistakes.

  • Weak offer. Make the free digital access the offer...with the newspaper as the secondary benefit. They could surely dip into their vast reservoir of content for some additional goodies. Something sexy.
  • The copy tells us the New York Times is brilliant but provides no benefits--save for "your paper is there waiting when you're ready to start the day." Not exactly compelling persuasion.
  • A buried benefit--a free app for iPhone or iPad. Now that's better. Put it up front. Use a supporting graphic.
  • Shoddy copywriting: "It's time for you to get the New York Times."
  • Copy doodle I can't see. I LOVE copy doodles. The one on the order panel is small and I can't read it.

Flip over to the back and the 9 reasons.

  • The testimonials are poor--with vapid stock photography.
  • I looked at every item and went, "so what?"
  • #6...Experience the caliber of reporting that has made The Times #1 in over all reach of U.S. Opinion Leaders. I don't even know what that means. Self-congratulation.
  • #9 Ordering is easy...That's a reason to subscribe? That's a benefit?

Why would someone pay the New York Times for information? Clearly, nobody has asked this question in the marketing and circulation department.

    I question the marketing strategy. They're selling the printed paper. But pumping up the digital adjuncts. Someone who loves the digital side isn't going to want the printed version. I would sell JUST the digital side and tell the reader why it's worth $5.20 a week. And provide some really big offers.
    In the next blog, I'm going to discuss how they should sell this product.

    This direct mail piece from The New York Times arrived in the mail. It makes a lot of big mistakes. Click on the image for full size.

    On the back...nine reasons with very few useful benefits.

    The offer is front and center but the best offer, the iPod and iPhone apps, is in small type.
    Nobody loves a good copy doodle more than me. The one here is too small and it should be in red.
    I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. For a free direct response copywriting checklist, go here