Bridging the Gap
Shaw suggests using brokering agents to assist in customs' negotiations: "They can deal face-to-face with customs, and a lot of times, that's how you can push things through without any problem."
There's no doubt that mailing abroad can be risky business, Loomis declares. Venezuela, in particular, has been his nemesis.
"We use a company called PDS International, which is based out of Long Island, to handle Venezuela for us," Loomis explains. "Venezuela's postal system is notorious for being undependable. In that case, a remailer like PDS is sometimes better because the company has an arrangement whereby it can bypass the local postal system.
"It costs a little more, but it gets there at a much more efficient rate than what we got from the local postal service."
Crossing the border
Launching into an international marketplace that is foreign—in every sense of the word—is scary business for many publishers. How can a publisher determine if a market is ripe?
Economic stability is a big factor, says Walker. In Playboy's situation, publishers typically solicit Playboy Enterprises for a chance at becoming a partner. "It isn't atypical that we'll get two or three publishers at the same time, within a six- to eight-month period," Walker reports. "That's a litmus test for us that the market is right."
Sometimes, it's just a gamble that a publisher has to take. "An awful lot of marketplaces that would not seem to be good from a distance are actually terrific," Walker claims. "An example for us would be Croatia. We launched there about a year ago as a bi-monthly. Now, we're at a circulation of 50,000, have over 30 pages of ads each issue and went monthly four months before we'd originally scheduled it."
Stability can fluctuate, however. According to Walker, Playboy Enterprises, which had the same licensing agreement with a Mexican publisher for over 20 years, ran into trouble when the peso devalued about five years ago.