So you are looking over some potential mailing lists – all subscription lists from trade journals your audience reads – and you come to the following conclusion:

“The better lists will be those created from paid subscriptions if only because the people on those lists made a commitment to buy the publication and are therefore more likely to read it. ”

Seems logical. But not true.

It is true that subscribers are more likely to read their paid publications which makes those publications better for advertising.

But list rental is another matter entirely.

With free publications, also called “controlled circulation” publications, the publisher doesn’t want your money. The publisher only wants your information.

Think about the free publications you receive and the questionnaires you need to fill out in order to get them.

They ask a lot of questions about your business, your job function, your purchasing authority – information the publisher will use to provide highly targeted mailing lists for companies that want to target your industry.

In contrast, paid circulation publishers typically ask only a few general questions figuring they don’t want to do anything to deter you from signing up.

Quick word of advice: When you are looking at controlled circulation mailing lists. don’t rely solely on the list datacard. The datacard doesn’t usually tell the whole story about the list. Ask to see the qualification card, or “qual card.” This is the actual questionnaire the subscriber needs to fill out. This is how the mailing list was created.


Written by Bob McCarthy

This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."