Is Your Fulfillment Fulfilling?
With all the talk of digital platforms and new pay models, it needs to be remembered that there is room for innovation and improvement in the realm of print circulation and fulfillment, which for most publishers still makes up the bulk of their businesses. Inbox asked Bill Billick, president of Hellertown, Pa.-based Media Research Corp. of America, for his views on the need for publishers to keep an eye on these fundamentals.
INBOX: Do you believe magazine publishers are putting less emphasis on good circulation practices than they should? If so, what's driving the neglect?
BILLICK: For those publishers who reduced their circulation staff/budgets, something has to give. That may mean fewer lists being tested, less time available to adequately evaluate options, and reduced morale due to increased workloads and hours. So much to do, so little time to do it means that the quality of the work will often suffer.
INBOX: What promotion/fulfillment-related things do publishers do that are most likely to annoy existing subscribers? How can these be remedied?
BILLICK: Receiving renewal offers within a few months after starting (or renewing) their subscription; being bombarded with too many renewal offers; receiving too many promotions for other products being sold by the publisher; automatic renewals that subscribers don't remember ever agreeing to; and [logistics issues that cause complaints like] "LL Bean can send me my order the next day while some publishers need eight weeks to mail me my first issue".
Solutions to the above are mostly self-evident, but several could be more costly to resolve than others and/or conflict with advertisers' preferences.
INBOX: What about courting new subscribers? Are publishers missing opportunities?
BILLICK: The increased cost of list testing may be causing some publishers to test fewer lists or test less often. Evaluation of other titles' lists can be readily accomplished via research-based list-testing models. In addition, since the research-based models are inherently more cost-effective, they'll also allow a publisher to cast a wider net to catch more fish — and possibly fish in places they haven't yet explored.