How Much Did All of Those AOL CDs Cost?

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Back in the '90s, when the Internet had just started to reach the masses, AOL implemented their brilliant -- and aggressive -- marketing plan: Send AOL CDs to millions of Americans. Daily. Unless you really loved getting mail, receiving AOL-branded junk mail every day likely annoyed you. But it worked. According to TechCrunch (a company recently acquired by AOL), after the bombardment, AOL went from 200,000 subscribers to somewhere around 25 million.

How much did it cost AOL to lure in subscribers? AOL's former chief marketing officer Jan Brandt told TechCrunch:

Over $300 million :-) At one point, 50% of the CD's produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it. We were logging in new subscribers at the rate of one every six seconds.

Steve Case, AOL's CEO at the time, provided more details:

Case says that he doesn't remember the total amount spent on the discs specifically, but says that in the early 1990s, AOL's goal was to spend 10 percent of lifetime revenue to get a new subscriber. He says that since the average subscriber life was around 25 months, revenue was about $350 off of each of these users. So he guesses they probably spent about $35 per user on things such as these discs.

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a writer based in Brooklyn. She was formerly on staff at The Atlantic Wire.

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