Magazine Web sites that attempt to replicate the bells and whistles of direct mail may be distracting prospects. They also may be cutting down purchase rates, said Rachel Greenfield, president of RGA LLC, during a panel discussion.
The fewer the number of clicks a subscriber has to make the better. Greenfield cited a case where both Food and Wine and Travel & Leisure magazines offered surveys with order options. Food and Wine’s pop-up offer was done through AOL, which offered one-click form completion. But Travel & Leisure prospects were directed to another page.
The Food and Wine offer pulled 20 times better than Travel & Leisure, Greenfield said.
Marketers’ ability to sell online is a tightrope act, said Jefferson Flanders, vice president of consumer marketing at Harvard Business School Publishing. It’s easy to burn out house lists, especially e-mail lists. But the Web also offers the ability to delivery digital premiums, such as PDF files of otherwise restricted material.
For publishers that have restricted much of their magazine’s content online, requiring that subscribers pay to see it, online subscriptions allow them to deliver the first “issue” of a subscription immediately. Flanders refers to this as the 13th issue in a 12-issue subscription, which allows a new reader to receive an immediate benefit to subscribing online.
This also partly mitigates a common publishing bugaboo. If a customer takes advantage of a “bill me” option, a hazard of online signup is that the invoice may arrive before the first issue. “We have 21st century technology, but we don’t have 21st century fulfillment,” Flanders said.
Heather Luongo, assistant director of online partnerships at Time Inc. consumer marketing offered a few caveats regarding the future of online fulfillment. Streamlining and simplifying the order process online is essential, she said. As consumers and Web browsers become more sophisticated about disabling pop-up windows, order forms in relevant editorial locations will become a critical part of the business.
Hard offers, in which the credit card is captured up front, significantly increase pay rates. Finally, when working with affinity partners, work only with those that have a strong affinity for your publication. Whenever possible, pay them on a cost-per-acquisition basis, Luongo said.