What is Alternate Media?

September 12, 2017

By Lori Keiling

Have you ever really asked yourself, “Exactly what is alternate media?” It has evolved quite a bit, let us tell you.

For approximately 40 years, it was simply called, “Inserts.” In the early 90’s, it was polished up to “Insert Media”, and about 15 years ago, industry leaders renamed it “Alternate Media” because they felt the word “Insert” did not fully express the breadth of the media. So, “Alternate Media” was adopted by consensus, but the title still falls short. Continue reading, and you will find out why!

The evolution of Inserts:

The original: Package Insert Programs.

Where third-party advertisements, otherwise known as “Inserts,” are placed in outgoing customer merchandise shipments. These can reach a highly targeted, super-hotline buyer at a low cost.  Many companies accept inserts weighing up to 2 ounces for an additional cost and therefore, larger formats, like mini catalogs, are an excellent option here (and boost results!).

A close relative? The Sampling Program.

Associated with the Package Insert, product samples are placed in customer boxes and bags by companies with the ability to handle larger, heavier pieces. Packaged goods companies have successfully advertised in these types of programs for decades.

Yet another relative? The Ride-Along.

Also linked to the Package Insert, a ride-along is typically an added customer touch (a bonus, if you will). Some companies accept inserts into non-catalog mailings to active customers or subscribers. In fact, book companies made the ride-along huge before the internet with reader selections mailed monthly (Brownie points for those of you that can recall). You better believe that newsletter publishers also offer ride-along opportunities. This type of program keeps the message/promo in front of the prospects on a regular basis, and usually requires a lightweight ad.

Alert! Industry Insight: Catalog Blow-in and Bind-in Programs.

Place a small, lightweight insert into a prospect or house catalog mailing. It is an effective way to get a complementary offer into the hands of potential buyers at decision-making time. Stick with us and we will share more industry insights with you – that is a promise.

Sharing is Caring. “Shared” Mailings a.k.a. Envelope or Co-op Programs.

These programs have withstood the test of time and are being reinvented by newer brands today (Aha! There is that evolution terminology again).  Advertisers looking for huge circulation quantities with geo targeting at a very low cost, love shared mailings – we really mean it. Over the last 2 years, new shared mailings have launched to address the needs of emerging brands with modeled universes delivering to affluent families and individuals, new home buyers and younger audiences. For those of you who have been there from the beginning, shared mailings are no longer solely for lower-end, highly promotional, broad-based offers.

The scoop on FSI’s (Free-Standing Inserts).

There are two giants in the field, Redplum and Smartsource, with astronomical circulation and detailed geo targeting. These products are somewhere between a shared mailing and an insert (a distant cousin), arriving solo in the mailbox and nested into newspapers. A Belardi/Ostroy Tip: Geo targeting is hard to find in alternate media, so these kinds of programs are the best option if it is required for your marketing tactics (See, we promised more tips!).

The secret sauce…Publishers.

Aside from on-page advertising, inserts can be placed inside newspapers (another way to geo target) and can be polybagged outside magazines, known as onserts. A Belardi/Ostroy Tip: Minimums are high for some of these options and extra time is needed for approvals and printing of some statements, but there are strong scalability methods for these programs, and usually high visibility for the insert.

Clearly, “Inserts” have transformed and evolved over time to “Alternate Media.” From its beginning as an enclosure program, this entity has grown to include many different types of media and sources. While they are all historically connected, Alternate Media’s story is not yet finished. Stick around to witness this chameleon-like unit continue its path.

Interested in learning more about Alternate Media and how you can promote your company’s products and services through this channel? Please reach out to Lori Keiling, VP Alternate Media Acquisition.