It's Not Your Father's Business Anymore
I received a note from a publisher friend of mine today who was commenting about ESPN The Magazine's new circulation pricing strategies. He says, "ESPN is testing a $1.00 renewal offer that includes a one-year subscription and membership to the magazine's paid Web site, ‘Insider.’ According to Hoenig, the purpose of the offer is to increase traffic (and, ultimately, membership) at the paid site. He says that retention of print subscribers is not the primary goal, and that the challenge of keeping advertisers is larger than the challenge of maintaining circulation. He adds, 'I would maintain that the problem the industry has is not a circulation problem and not a reader problem, it's an advertising problem.'"
My friend, who is not only a publisher but is also an official BoSacks Cub Reporter, goes on to say, "Regardless of whether this experiment works for ESPN or whether it doesn’t, it's a perfectly valid test for a magazine with circulation of 2,000,000."
Lastly, my friend adds that … "it's pointless to generalize about whether a business model is good or bad. What works at one business may not work at another."
I agree with him 100 percent. Whereas there were once just three approaches to mass media, there are now what I would like to say at least dozens (though there are more likely hundreds or even thousands), and no two approaches need to be alike. Combo media buys, digital drilling, and alternate substrates make for unique business plans for everyone. The sports guys may, in fact, be reached completely differently than soccer moms, who have nothing in common with geeks. Each group requires its own multi-directional business plan.
Very few publishing old-timers who have been through the publishing wars and made serious money the old fashioned way can get that into their heads. It's just not your father’s business anymore, and it ain't gonna be.