Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Are Free Magazines the Future of Publishing?

Are Free Magazines the Future of Publishing?
Will consumer go controlled?
By Chandra Johnson-Greene
CHICAGO-During a session at this week's CM Show, Jennifer Armor, audit manager at Verified Audit Circulation, argued that free magazines are the future of the business.

She riffed off a quote from Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson: "From the consumer's perspective there is a huge difference between cheap and free. Give a product away and it can go viral. Charge a single cent for it and you're already in an entirely different business."

Armour thinks this idea can, and will, eventually extend to the magazine industry. (Broadcast radio and TV have been offering it since their inception, after all, and the music industry is moving in the same direction, she noted.)

Because of the increasing price of paper and postage, Armour said, the cost of acquiring and keeping paid circ is becoming too high compared to the revenue it generates, and therefore, consumer publications will eventually move to a controlled circ model. Only magazines with premium content that can't be found elsewhere will be able charge their readers.

True, other types of media are free or becoming free, and it is becoming quite expensive to run a paid title. But the idea that consumer magazines will be corralled into a free model due to spiraling costs is unlikely.

Advertisers are still grappling with accepting that public-place copies of paid titles are valuable because the publishing industry's audience measurement system isn't as finite as TV or radio. To them, there's no real way to measure how many eyes have viewed the copies. Circulators know differently, of course, but the debate rages on. And until that issue-and a few others-have been hashed out, Armour's view of the future is out of reach.


Maghound offers magazines a la carte
By Lauren Bell

Time Inc. will launch
- a membership-based magazine purchasing site - in September.

Maghound users pay a monthly members' fee, depending on the number of titles they would like to receive. The program currently has 280 titles from a variety of publishers, and members can order different titles every month.

"The goal, simply, is to expand print circulation, and we feel, based on testing, that we can bring incremental readers to each brand," said Dave Ventresca, president of Maghound Enterprises Inc. "In addition, Maghound can bring in the right types of readers; we feel confident that it will deliver younger readers, who are more likely to be married, more likely to have children, have higher levels of education and higher household income levels than the general US population."

Though Maghound is a Time Inc. venture, other publishers have been invited to join the service, with the rationale that more choice makes more loyal consumers. Time titles will, however, benefit from merchandising and special promotions on the site - as will other high-performing titles. Ventresca said he expects to have 300 magazines signed up for Maghound by the end of September and 400 by the end of the year.

Marketing for the September Maghounds launch will be largely through online channels, such as banners and e-mails. Once the brand gets better established, marketing efforts will expand to print, events, search, viral and gift programs. Time Inc. lists and outside lists are being used to target direct efforts.

"The key metrics that we're looking at are: costs per acquiring new members, how many magazines people are buying, how much they're paying and how long they're going to stay with the service," said Ventresca. "We think people will stay Maghound readers longer because if you are subscribing to three titles [in the traditional way] and get bored with title C, you just cancel or let it lapse. If you're paying for three titles on Maghound and get bored of the third one, you're more likely to switch to another title since you're already paying for three."

Three titles from Maghound cost $3.95 a month, five titles $7.95, and seven are $9.95. For more than seven titles, members pay an additional dollar per title. Around 10% of the titles on Maghound have been designated "premium," based on their higher-than-average subscription pricing; premium titles charge an extra fee.

Magazines purchased through Maghound will be classified as single-copy sales in ABC and BPA audits.

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