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.