Empowering the publisher and changing the way they communicate digital print increases customer loyalty for Guardian News and Media Limited


  • The Guardian wanted to increase newspaper sales; recognise customer loyalty and encourage its readers to purchase more editions per week


  • It devised a subscription scheme offering readers three different packages
  • Each personalised voucher features the date of the issue it can be exchanged for; the subscriber's name and subscription number and a barcode, enabling it to be tracked throughout production
  • Outsourcing the production and distribution to HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press user F.E. Burman


  • Over 40,000 subscribers have joined the scheme
  • Creation of a customer database that will allow newspaper to revise its sales strategy
  • The scheme has helped to support the Guardian's network of UK news retailers

BARCELONA, Spain, 23 February 2010 - With newspaper sales currently in decline, Richard Furness, head of product sales, Guardian News and Media Limited, wanted to devise a way of sustaining sales, rewarding customer loyalty and encouraging existing customers to buy more copies per week.

The company decided to offer new and existing customers a loyalty scheme, providing readers with a range of pre-paid, discounted packages incentivizing them to subscribe to the newspaper.

"The problem with a subscription service for newspapers is that the timeliness of the product makes delivery difficult. We decided to use a voucher system, whereby readers could redeem their vouchers at the retailer, eliminating any potential problems over postage. This method of distribution also has the advantage of supporting local news retailers, which was important to us," explained Furness.

Developing the scheme

The Guardian developed three subscription packages tailored to its readers' requirements; a seven day package, including the Observer on Sunday; a six day package, running from Monday to Saturday and finally a weekend package for readers that wanted Saturday's Guardian and Sunday's edition of the Observer.

For ease of use, it was decided that the vouchers would be collated in the form of a booklet, containing tickets for the next three months. Each voucher features the date of the issue each voucher can be redeemed against; the subscriber's name and a unique subscription number and barcode. This ensured that each booklet can be tracked throughout the production process.

"The biggest challenge that we had to get around was the complexity of variable data printing (VDP) in the booklet," confirmed Furness. "We spoke to a few print service providers (PSPs) about the project, but only F.E. Burman gave us total confidence that they would be able to produce the vouchers.

"What we didn't expect was how easy they would make it. Before production began I was very concerned about the process of handling large amounts of variable data, since working with F.E. Burman I don't worry about it at all - in fact it has become the easiest part of the project."

Collecting the data and production

Readers of the Guardian and the Observer are invited to sign up to the loyalty scheme by phone or online. This information is then collated externally, before being supplied to F.E. Burman to produce the personalised printed content that appears on the vouchers. The company uses its HP SmartStream Production Pro Print Server to handle the high volumes of variable data required to feed its HP Indigo press, enabling sophisticated personalisation.

The 32-page, DL32 sized booklets are produced on F.E. Burman's HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press, which can print at speeds up to 120 A4 four-colour pages per minute.

"The Guardian wanted the booklets to be as userfriendly as possible. The vouchers are all perforated, so that they can simply be torn out of the booklet at the time of redemption," explained Michael Burman, managing director, F.E. Burman. "We pre-perforate the paper and then run this through our HP Indigo press. We print each book individually, to eliminate the time consuming and costly process of collating the personalised pages. Its100 percent accurate and ensures that the correct information and booklet gets sent to the customer it is intended for."

The booklets are folded, stitched, trimmed and finished in-house. Because the vouchers are all dated, speedy production and timely distribution are vital. F.E. Burman produces the booklets in a weekly run.

"Using both the HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press and the HP SmartStream Production Pro Print Server, is ideal for the production of the voucher booklets, offering us high productivity and efficient data handling," said Burman. "This combination of technology is vital in ensuring that we can produce all the booklets in time."

Representing the Guardian brand

In order for the project to be successful, the booklet had to represent the brand and its name for highquality and innovation.

"The Guardian was the first daily national paper to feature colour on all its pages, high-quality colour replication was vital to our reputation," said Furness. "The final booklet just looks fantastic. The print quality is fantastic and really makes the booklet stand out. The colours leap off the page."

Future Plans

"The personalised vouchers have definitely achieved our aims and the feedback we have received has been very positive. We now have over 40,000 subscribers and have seen an increase in customer loyalty. We used the collected information to create a database of subscribers; telling us who reads which day's edition of the newspaper and helping us establish an effective and meaningful direct dialogue with our readers for the future. It has become a key part of our sales strategy and we are now being challenged to devise innovative ways to use this data about our readership. We have seen how powerful effective personalisation can be, and it has changed the way we think about communicating to our readers and advertising. We plan to use this to look at new ways of adding value to both our readers and advertisers in the future," concluded Furness.

At a glance

Industry sector: Printing
Business name: F.E. Burman
Address: Crimscott Street, SE1 5TF, London, Great Britain
Telephone: +44(0)207 206 1000
Web: www.feburman.co.uk
Email: info@feburman.co.uk