Publishing plumbers

Last week, paidContent posted a guest column by Gregory Galant in which he offered a simple idea to help the magazine industry save itself: fix their back-office systems to improve customer service.

Galant describes a situation all too familiar to anyone who has subscribed to a print magazine: renewal mailings that start several months before an actual expiration; clunky interfaces that treat physical and digital engagement separately; and subscription lead times measured in months.

I’d add a few of my own: magazines that request an e-mail every time I renew but do nothing with it; special e-mail offers from publications I already receive (offering rates better than the ones I got when I loyally renewed); and periodicals in name only that come in bunches, sporadically or not at all after I subscribe.

Galant calls on periodical publishers to move to monthly billing via credit cards, eliminating both fixed-term subscriptions and the renewal efforts those subscriptions engender. Those approaches would emulate Netflix and … Amazon.

At the end of last year, Donn Linn described 2012 as a year that will see the “revenge of the plumbers: the nerds, geeks and dirty-fingernail men and women who work behind the scenes so that the shiny new products and services the public sees work when customers come a-calling.”

Although Don was writing about book publishing, his assessment applies broadly. Back-office systems to handle renewals, billing and fulfillment can be difficult to overhaul. Many publishers outsource these functions, and even those who have fulfillment operations in-house manage the activities at arm’s length.

But if magazines really care about maintaining direct relationships, they need to upgrade these systems, treat customers with a fully informed respect and stop making me, or Gregory Galant, work so hard.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *