By Ray Schultz
Geographic segmentation was no big thing fifty years ago. What was new was the ability to tailor the copy to the area. Take this direct mailing done by Time magazine.
The letters contained a sort of glorified Johnson Box at the top, printed in gold, asking questions that concerned the reader’s city. Below that box, they were the same.
Here are two samples. One focuses on Boston, the other on Cleveland. I assume that other cities were also targeted, but I only have these two letters.
To put things in context, these pieces were dated Feb. 17, 1964 ten days after the Beatles arrived in America and eight days before Cassius Clay, soon to be Muhammad Ali, won the heavyweight championship. Lyndon Johnson had been president for three months in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, and later that year would win a full term by beating Barry Goldwater.
The envelopes were postmarked Lincoln, Nebraska and were identified in the Time archive by the cities to which they were going.
Did the computer play a role in this direct mail campaign? Hard to say. Time Inc did conduct personalized computer mailings to doctors that very year, but it was a long time before this became a regular practice.
Let’s start with the Boston version. Is there anyone there who remembers these worries? Old-timers will recall that the MBTA was called the M.T.A. in those days.
Who will be Ted Kennedy’s opponent in the Senate contest? / What is the outlook for Boston’s tax rate? / When will we have an answer to the nagging on-street parking problem—are theft-proof meters the solution? / Why should the M.T.A. be extended to the South Shore? / Where will the Celtics finish the season? / How corrupt is Massachusetts—and can the crime commission do anything to correct it?
Now here’s the Cleveland variation.
Who will be Ohio’s favorite son at the Democratic National Convention? / What are the prospects for this year’s Cleveland Indians team? / When did the term “diffusion” come up in connection with school integration? / Where is the first apartment building in Erieview to be erected? / Why are Shaker Heights residents protesting the proposed construction of the Clark Freeway? / How does Senator Stephen Young feel about John Glenn’s 1960 voting record?
What follows is the body of the direct mail letter, which was identical in each case:
February 17, 1964
Questions like these, of largely local interest illustrate something that’s also true of national or international issues. It’s essential to have more than just a few raw facts; it’s important to know the background.
These same questions also help show why, in reporting the news from every field, TIME has always done something more than give a plain recital of the facts. Naturally it starts of with the eyewitness story; but when the event is big news, the eyewitness may be standing too close to get the full significance. TIME stands back, examines the causes, digs out other pertinent facts, relates it to other events. TIME also knows the personalities involved.
As a way of following the news, TIME makes sense – because it makes sense of the news.
It’s not just the international news that you find all the more understandable. To give a few examples from other fields – if a report on a dramatic discovery takes you beyond the door that’s just been unlocked, you’re beginning to understand the real meaning of the discovery itself. Events in Washington can be better judged if the issues are clearly spelled out. Explore, instead of just recount, new developments in education and you od justice to their fundamental importance.
In TIME’s other news departments also, even in the briefest reports, you find you get more out of the news, because TIME looks at sit with a penetrating, appraising eye.
It’s the reason why many leaders in business and the professions in communities across the country vote TIME their favorite magazine the most important magazine in the U.S. today. TIME reports with the intelligence, accuracy, and consciousness that the leadership community needs and demands.
If, so far, you’ve only read an occasional copy of TIME, we hope you’ll take advantage of an invitation we offer here and now to read TIME regularly at a special introductory rate. Return the card and we’ll send you
20 weeks of TIME For $1.97 (that’s only 10 cents a copy).
No need to sign or check it. Just drop it in the mail – today.