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London Paper Issues RFID Card to Increase Reader Loyalty

The Evening Standard hopes its Eros card will boost newspaper sales.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 27, 2007Selling newspapers in London is a tough game, but The Evening Standard is using RFID to gain a competitive edge. The popular daily paper, targeted at commuters who ride the London Underground subway system, sells between 200,000 and 300,000 copies per day, at a cost of £0.50 ($1.12) apiece. It must compete, however, with a bevy of free dailies (known as "freesheets") with a combined daily circulation of around 900,000.

In an effort to expand its readership, entice readers to buy the paper more frequently and gather insights into the buying habits and interests of its readers, the Standard has launched an RFID-based loyalty/debit card. The paper's managing director, Andrew Mullins, hopes readers will become enamored with the Eros Reward Card because of the discounts it offers on the newsstand price (the paper does not offer home delivery), as well as other perks, such as free song downloads from iTunes.

The card was rolled out this week at London's Waterloo Underground station, Mullins says. Staffers have been signing up users, providing new enrollees an Eros card and using Web-enabled wireless PDAs to record their names and e-mail addresses. By the time the commuters reach their home or office, an e-mail message should already have arrived from the Standard, providing a link to a registration page where they can use their bank or a credit card account to load value on their Eros account.

The discount is determined by the specific amount loaded onto the card. For instance, loading £4 ($8.10) on the card provides a savings of £1 ($2.02), with the cardholder paying £0.40 ($0.81) apiece for 10 copies of the paper. Loading £34 ($68.82) on the card yields a per-paper cost of £0.34 ($0.69), a savings of £16 ($32.39) on 100 copies.

In addition to getting free music downloads, the card user also qualifies for discounts at select area restaurants and merchants. In exchange for the deals, readers must provide some personal information and agree to receive promotional e-mail messages from the Standard, but Mullins considers this a quid pro quo arrangement.

"There is a value exchange and a trust exchange," Mullins explains. "You only give someone your information if you trust them, and the value exchange here is considerable. We might send an e-mail to cardholders that alerts them when they are running low on credits, and then also suggest that they buy the paper the next morning because we have a great feature on so-and-so."

"We won't start spamming [Eros card holders] from a whole bunch of advertisers," Mullins adds, "which is tempting in the short term but disastrous in the long term."

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