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.