By Ray Schultz
Time Inc, not even two years old and decades away from algorithms, sent personalized direct mail letters to businessmen in the 1920s. Take this piece identified in the files only as “before 25.” It went to Alexander Jones, of Market Street, Philadelphia. Since Time magazine debuted in 1923, that gives you some idea of the timeframe.
The letterhead says “Time,” and lists the address as East Thirty-ninth Street New York.” Here’s the direct mail letter:
Dear Mr. Jones:
Because TIME is particularly a magazine for people how are not “magazine readers”; for people who have little time to take up with new fads; it seemed to the publishers of TIME that the usual methods of subscription solicitation by mail and advertisements would not bring the new-magazine to the attention of those for whom it was primarily intended—the busy man and woman of affairs.
The publishers, therefore, asked a leading citizen and TIME subscriber in several large cities the great favor of suggesting the names of persons in his city to whom he thought the news-magazine would be of interest. Mr. Edward M. Bok in Philadelphia, Mr. William Allen White in Kansas, Mr. Robert Underwood Johnson in New York, Mr. Bernard M. Baruch, Mr. Otto Bannard were kind enough to give us the names of such people in their respective communities. The judgment of these men in this instance has been most effectively upheld.
The specimen issues of TIME sent to the busy persons whom they suggested have resulted in almost 100% enthusiastic subscribers—an unparalleled response. It is with a feeling of confidence that we have sent you the several issues of TIME. Whether or not you are in a position at the moment to enter a subscription we trust that TIME has afforded you as much pleasure in reading as we have had in sending them to you.
The enclosed card bears your name and address and requires only your signature to bring TIME for the next year. If you will return it promptly we shall take care to see that there is o gap in the delivery of your copies. The card is stamped ready for mailing. It will be a great pleasure to consider you as a subscriber.
Alexander Jones Esq.,