Magazines Face Challenges in 2003

Direct mail and magazines will continue to be a difficult mix this year according to Primedia's David Ball.

Ball, VP, consumer marketing - Primedia Consumer Media and Magazine Group, said along with the on going war, potential anthrax scares, and ad recession, several other trouble areas are making magazines hard to market effectively.

"Magazines can't make money on newsstands anymore," said Ball. "Magazine wholesalers are going bankrupt and are being forced to change the dynamics of how magazines are sold. They want to be compensated for taking the magazines, not just on sell-through." Ball believes this will hurt small specialty publishers in particular.

Ball said magazines have hurt themselves with subscription tactics such as giving consumers the option to pay for magazine subscriptions with frequent flyer miles, instead of money. "We have lowered consumer expectations to the value of our magazines and in the long run, this will ultimately be detrimental to the business," said Ball.



Another area of concern to the magazine business is telemarketing. "There are a lot of abusive telemarketers who are literally ruining one of our key subscription sources - legitimate telemarketing to generate subscription sales and to up-sell additional products," Ball said. He also fears restrictions coming down from Washington that will curb this practice further.

The Internet will continue to be a double-edge sword for the magazine industry. In one respect, consumers are becoming accustomed to getting free information from magazine sites, making it harder to sell them on subscriptions. On the other hand, Ball said the Internet allows consumers to subscribe directly online. Primedia, for example, provides a subscription form at the end of every story on its magazine sites to encourage readers to subscribe. Also, while it won't replace Primedia's circulation efforts, email marketing will certainly help these efforts by acquiring incrementally readers through low-cost email. "In 12-18 months, email will be of increasing importance to Primedia," Ball said.

Ball's remarks were made at the 2003 Direct Media Mailer Conference & Co-op, held yesterday in Westchester, NY.

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