Posted by Denny Hatch
How The Wall Street Journal Took Me to the Cleaners“Dear Denny Hatch,
“Your WSJ Digital Package is about to renew.”
What the hell kind of lede is that?
Gee, I thought I was a savvy subscriber to the world’s premier financial publication that would enhance my career, teach me about money and investing and guide me to a safe harbor in retirement.
The circulation dweebs at The Journal are telling me what I’m really going to miss is my “Digital Package.”
The Importance of the SignatureIt was freelancer Malcolm Decker who wrote: “On a letter, your signature is your handshake.”
Here’s how the Journal circulation people signed off:
WSJ Customer service.
Golly, as a longtime member of the WSJ family, don’t I rate letter from a real person—maybe a VP of circulation or something?
It doesn’t need to be a real signature. But just the name of somebody—an actual, real live person at The Journal—who cares about me?
“The Most Successful Advertisement
In the History of the World”That’s what I called Martin Conroy’s 1974 “Two Young Men…” letter that brought in $2 billion+ in circulation revenue to The Wall Street Journal for over more than a quarter century.
Here’s is Conroy’s closing paragraph:
Could WSJ Customer service have written that letter? Or stood behind the guarantee of interesting, reliable and always useful? Quite simply, the real name of a real person signing a letter counts big time in terms of believability and trust. The name of someone I could complain to if I had a problem rather than the nameless, faceless, inhuman WSJ Customer service.
Two weeks ago, when I was hit with the cold, perfunctory renewal effort you see at the top of this post, I thought: “Okay, I’ll renew.”
I clicked where I was told, and here’s what came up:
OMG! A Nasty Surprise!WSJ's real message to me was two parts:
• (1) “Hey, Denny, we sneakily up our prices 5% every 9 months!
• (2) “Up yours!”
• Lord knows when—and how little—I was paying when I first subscribed.
• Under the “Auto-renewal” system, I never saw a bill or a beautifully crafted renewal effort. Just a charge in mouse type amidst dozens of others on a monthly VISA bill.
• At what point in the future would the Journal up me into paying $1,000 a month?
• How much was I costing The Wall Street Journal? Not ink. Not paper. Not printing. Not folding. And not delivery.
• This was an annual $467.88 fee for teeny nano-spritzes of electricity.
• With 50+ years in direct marketing, I am acutely aware of product pricing, cost-of-goods sold and allowable order costs.
• WSJ is operating on a 100-million-times mark-up.
Is The Wall Street Journal worth it? Nah!When I saw what I was paying, I reassessed my intercourse with WSJ.
Okay, my sad-sack insecure ego liked receiving it.
I felt I was getting inside information, just like the big kahunas on Wall Street, in corporate corner offices and on room service breakfast trays at Mar-a-Lago.
Intense Media Competition for My AttentionI no longer read print newspapers. They are cumbersome and physically messy. They destroy forests. Type is tiny and I have always had lousy eyesight.
Every morning online I skim/scan/read the juiciest items in Apple News, The New York Times, Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Wall Street Journal sucks hind tit with its also-ran coverage of world affairs, politics, stories of rich people’s mansions, wardrobes, transportation, food and amusements.
Maybe once a week I’d click on a story.
Quite frankly, my reading list—plus TV addiction (MSNBC, Fox News, CNN)—enable me to keep up with the catastrophic conditions of city, state, country and world as well as the deluge of dysfunctional, duplicitous douchebags destroying the planet.
WSJ, I want to be romanced!For 30 years as a direct response copywriter my client base was made up mainly of magazine and newsletter publishers. I was proud to know them and privileged to get inside the heads of editors, readers and prospects to help make everybody’s lives better.
Many copywriters hated the tedious work of creating renewal and billing efforts; I found them a delicious challenge—reprising the benefits of a familiar old gigolo and making him seem young, vibrant and sexy again.
My wife, Peggy, is a true master of renewals and billing efforts. She loves them!
So when I changed credit cards—and the “Auto-renew” business model fizzled out—WSJ’s circulation creeps were forced to lurch into action.
Alas, they had nothing in their arsenal to persuade me to renew beyond the threat of being cut off from the “WSJ digital package.”
If You Want My $467.88 a Year
You Damn Well Re-sell Me!• How many reporters do you have working for me in how many countries?
• Make me feel like a member of your family of star journalists and Op-Editors—a real insider!
• What were the breakthrough stories and personality profiles you brought me over that past year?
• Pound into my brain the splendid benefits and exclusive features I can’t get elsewhere!
• How about offering me a digital cookbook or special reports as a “thank-you” for renewing?” Maybe a WSJ tote bag or coffee mug?
• What are WSJ's plans for the coming year and how will you change my life for the better?
• Scare the hell out of me that if I do not renew, I will be woefully unprepared for coming financial Armageddon and will become a bag-person on the streets!
• Quite simply, WSJ folks, I don’t like you and I don’t need you.
• You have been picking my pocket for years and you spoke to me with all the charm, warmth and enthusiasm of HAL, the computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.
Takeaways to Consider• No marketer should allow ham-handed circulation clerks, lawyers, bean counters and programmers to directly interact with customers, prospects and employees.
• I strongly suggest every person running a business put a world-class copywriter on retainer—a sensitive and literate pro that can work with you on sales and promotion messages. Additional duties: help make sure all your internal and external communications—from the executive suite to the mailroom—are doing their intended jobs.
• The real name of a real person signing a letter counts big time in terms of believability and trust—the name of someone I could complain to if I had a problem rather than the nameless, faceless, inhuman "WSJ Customer service."
Word Count: 1091
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At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.
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