AARP’s Digital Shift

The AARP is a juggernaut. Nearly 40 percent of all Americans over the age of 50 (nearly 35 million) belong to AARP. At a time when magazines of all stripes are struggling with declining circulation, the Audit Bureau of Circulation has AARP Magazine as the highest-circulated publication with a little more than 22 million readers.

The group is now betting it can muscle further into the digital world — received 5.3 million unique visitors in May 2012, up from 4.5 million in May 2011 — with a coupon site called Hot Deals that’s geared to the 79 million Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) whose sunset years are on the horizon.

There are currently 13 brands participating in Hot Deals — including Dell, Radio Shack, MLB, GNC, British Airways, The Hartford — which offer AARP members discounts like $5 off a Radio Shack purchase of more than $90 or free shipping on a pair of Dockers. AARP takes a cut of the deals redeemed.

“Most people don’t realize the No. 1 reason people join (AARP) is for discounts,” said Peter Zeuschner, AARP’s senior manager of advertising sales for the northeast region. “We didn’t have a discount platform, so we launched this to allow one place for our members to find different offers.”

The timing might be right. Advertisers are often obsessed with chasing youth, with the idea that their brand preferences aren’t yet set in stone. But older Americans are far more likely to use coupons; according to GfK MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer, compared to those age 18-49, 50+ consumers are 20 percent more likely to use coupons, and 21 percent are more likely to be heavy coupon users. Additionally, Baby Boomers have become extremely Web savvy. According to an April 2012 Pew study, 53 percent of American adults age 65 and older use the Internet or email. According to the AARP, about half of its members are working (full or part time), while the rest spend their days in retirement. And the age breakdowns: 33 percent are under 60, 46 percent between 60 and 74, and 21 percent are over 75.

You might think of the AARP as, excuse the pun, old school. In fact, it has a digital business that many publishers would envy.

Zeuschner claims that over the past four years, has experience 30-50 percent growth in revenue. He also said that the site gets “anywhere from $45 CPMs on the homepage and our premium channels are north of $25.” Hot Deals works on guaranteed impressions, making the buy more affordable.

“This is part of an opportunity to allow advertisers to bring these offers to members in a cost-effective way,” Zeuschner said. “Most advertisers have a hard time justifying $45 CPMs.”

According to Zeuschner, average time spent on is 29 minutes, indicating that there’s some type of justification for the high CPMs. But with Hot Deals, this is a program that’s an easier point of entry for brands.

“We’re serving two needs: the member need for discounts and the advertiser need to have one place to offer discounts on a performance-based platform,” Zeuschner said. “The one thing [the site] lacked — in terms for members and advertisers – is one area where all sorts of different advertiser discounts can live.”

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