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IdeaBar: Magazine Subscription Coupons

Istock_000002553738xsmall I love magazines.  For someone who lives a good part of their life online, I read and subscribe to an oddly high number of them as well.  Of course, I could access most of the content from all these magazines online for free – but I do believe the experience of having a magazine that I can pick up and read on the go in places where I cannot get internet access is still worth paying for.  Most of the magazines I subscribe to are monthly publications (Business2.0, Fast Company, Wired, Conde Nast Traveller, and National Geographic) and BusinessWeek is my only subscription that arrives more frequently.  For each of them (with perhaps the exception of National Geographic), a big part of the reason that I subscribe is that I want the information first.  I suspect many magazine subscribers have a similar reason for subscribing.  Just like those who preorder books, the whole idea of subscribing and placing your order early is to get the information before everyone else, and certainly before non-subscribers. 

The problem I have with all of my magazines is that I don’t get them first.  In fact, I pass several newsstands and a bookstore on my way to work, and often see the magazines carried there before they have arrived in my mailbox.  Now usually it is just a matter of days – but those few days matter to me.  If a band offered presales of tickets to a concert to members of their fan club, waiting a few days to buy would be unacceptable.  I am a fan of all my magazines, yet I don’t feel as though I get a jump on their content any earlier than anyone who walks into a Borders to buy a copy.  The ideal solution, of course, is for them to send it and me to get it earlier … but I know the logistics involved in sending out hundreds of thousands of magazines and I know sometimes its not possible.  Here’s an alternative idea for this Idea Bar: magazine subscription coupons.  Instead of getting my magazine via the mail, I would get a coupon that could be used for the new issue and redeemed at any newsstand, bookstore or retail location that carries the magazine.  This coupon would ideally be emailed to me for a single use, and I would get it as soon as the first issues to retail locations are shipped. 

Of course, some people like the convenience of getting their magazines home delivered and would never go out of their way to pick it up – but for those like me who care more about getting it first, and are already passing several retail locations on our way to work, this system is low effort and would be ideal.  Retail locations would likely love it as well, since it gets more people coming in and increases the chance that you might buy something else.  Magazines could also use the couponing to get an idea of the most popular retail destinations for their customers.  Would this work?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Special Note (08/01/07):  Welcome to those readers making their way here from the Fast Company blog post.  Coincidentally, I had posted this entry about the magazine business before seeing the link from FC Online, but if you read the magazine online or offline … add your views here!

About the Idea Bar:  Working in a creative team, the life of our business is new ideas.  We come up with them every day for clients, but sometimes there are ideas that just don’t fit a client.  They are too big, too different, or just not quite right. Inspired by John at Digital Influence Mapping Project, the IdeaBar is a category of posts that are meant to be "open source" and offer new ideas for marketing.  Read more IdeaBar posts on this blog.

  • J i m

    For those of us that don’t pass by newsstands, what about an email alert with links to the latest info as it’s released? (Actually, Newsweek does something similar.)

    Also, I would think this idea would only work with magazines that people aren’t embarrassed to buy in public. It’s probably a source of pride to go into a store to buy the latest ‘Wired’ … but less so for ‘Hot Rod Babes’ or something more carnal than techie.

  • Andre Blackman

    I always love getting magazines, Fast Company was one of the first magazines I started reading and I still enjoy it. Portability is definitely one of the reasons I enjoy – take it on the train or on a long road trip. Never know when an article will spark an idea on an otherwise dreary car ride.

    Speaking of Business 2.0, they are doing a great “Save the Publication” campaign on Facebook – I couldn’t help but weigh in myself. Another example of the benefits and influence of the social media world.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aman.singh81/ Aman

    The idea surely sounds good. However, as you pointed, the main reason people go for subscription is to avoid making a trip to the newsstand. So, if a trip is required, then the idea behind a subscription would be totally defeated and there would be no real benefit to subscribe. Yes, subscription offers a discount but that’s only coz the money is paid in lump sum for a complete year. (Part – I)

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aman.singh81/ Aman

    Also, your idea makes perfect sense in your situation. But then not everyone is as passionate about the magazines they subscribe.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aman.singh81/ Aman

    In addition, for this new system to work, the magazines inventory at the newsstands would have to be increased which i guess won’t go down easily with the newsstand owners and would be heavily resisted. However, if inventory is not altered then the there may be a risk lost sales coz of out of stock situation and that would terribly upset both the subscribers and non-subscribers.

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