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The publishing industry is in turmoil right now. It's a rollercoaster ride as recession bites and people have less money to spend on luxury goods that are not necessities. Magazines have felt the effect of this as people have started to cut back on their spending, and the industry has seen its income from magazine sales and advertising revenue slump as consumers and businesses rein in their spending, cutting back on their household and advertising budgets. In an effort to keep customer loyalty and help consumers carry on with their favourite magazines, publishers have introduced different selling techniques to weather the economic storm, with fantastic money-saving offers on magazine subscriptions so that you can get the first few issues of your favourite magazine from just £1 each if you pay by Direct Debit (only available in the UK).
There are a range of buying opportunities if you are looking for a magazine. For casual shoppers, it is often a spontaneous buy from a newsstand counter, either in the high street or at an airport or supermarket. Publishers are all jostling for shelf space in these outlets. It is fiercely competitive and very expensive to put a magazine on the newsstand, so it has to result in a good stream of sales to be effective. Busy customers are therefore confronted with a wall of front covers all screaming "buy me and read this" with bold and eye-catching designs, images, daring fonts, glossy covers, tempting strap lines across the top of the magazine, "number one magazine" all vying for your attention. You will take around 5 to 7 seconds to initially scan all of the covers and pick up one that catches your eye. Whatever your hobby, whether it's something crafty like knitting or sewing, or something more engineering-based, like RC modelling, cars or trains, there are likely to be around 5 magazines all proclaiming that they are the number one expert in this field. What is it that pushes sales conversions from you first seeing the wall of covers, to your actual buying decision? Do you want the free covermount, does the image on the front cover catch your eye, or are the headlines telling you that this is the content you are looking for, "30 amazing projects to do in a weekend". Research shows that although you browse several titles, you will probably buy the first magazine you picked up after the 5 second scan.
If you regularly buy the same magazine, you will notice from its pages that it will have a subscription page offering you great money-saving discounts if you subscribe for a number of issues. Magazine frequency can vary, from some weekly magazines, to monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, so you need to look carefully when comparing prices. Many publishers are now cramming in 13 issues into a twelve month subscription, leaving magazine editors struggling to keep up with the never-ending demand for more articles. Subscriber savings can be a huge benefit to the consumer, with savings of anything between 20 - 50% or more on the newsstand cover price. The savings generally tend to be more generous for the longer the term that you commit yourself to, so a 2 year subscription will generally work out as a lower cost per issue than a 6 month subscription and a direct debit will usually give you the lowest cost per issue. From the publisher's point of view, they have secured you as a long-term customer by offering you a lower rate, so improving cashflow for products that they haven't yet produced. This underpins the future of the magazine to allow production to continue while the subscription revenue funds future production costs. The bigger and better the subscriber base, the better the advertising revenue will be as businesses know that their adverts will continue to be seen month after month by readers who are totally loyal to their hobby. Advertising is often sold with discounts on regular placements, so the business owners also benefit from subscribers' ongoing loyalty to the magazine. To take advantage of these savings, you will have to pay either a large sum upfront or commit yourself to regular direct debit payments, so you need to be sure that your budget is stable enough to afford this and you are committed to this magazine rather than to similar competitors who in some issues may offer something more suitable for you.
The other benefits of subscribing are that publishers will often sell you other related products that they produce and will offer you discounts on these as a reward for your subscriber loyalty to them. Many publishers are now producing bookazines, which as the name suggests, is a hybrid book/magazine. It looks like a magazine and you can buy them in the newsagents, but the content is based on one or two very focussed subjects. For example, if you are interested in cooking, a bookazine might focus entirely on birthday cakes. You might buy this as a long term reference guide, whenever you need to make a birthday cake. The publisher often simply takes a few new articles and reproduces some slightly modified articles from previous issues to collate all the birthday cake magazine articles in one handy bookazine issue for you, to save you from searching through all of your magazine collection for the articles on birthday cakes. Bookazines are also useful for advertising revenue because they have a longer term of exposure as they are on the shelf for longer than a monthly magazine. Again, stressed editors are working harder than ever to produce articles for bookazines as well as the 13th issue!
As a magazine subscriber, you can often get very generous discounts if you buy the subscription directly from the publisher by responding to the subscription page in the magazine. Once you are established as a subscriber, the publisher will offer you more discounts on its extended range of magazines, bookazines and possibly related books and DVDs relevant to your hobby.
To encourage consumers to take out a magazine subscription, the publisher will often work in conjunction with advertisers from the magazine to offer subscribers a welcome gift as an incentive to subscribe. Gardeners for example, may receive free seeds or gardening tools when they take out a subscription. The value of the gift is often very high, so you are tempted to pay £40 or so to subscribe, because you will also receive a free gift worth around £25 - £50 RRP. The benefit of this to the advertiser is that they can convert you to a long term customer too once you have tried their product, because as a subscriber, you are clearly very passionate about your hobby and will continue to spend money on relevant products.
If you want to shop around for subscription offers and deals, there are now a number of places that you can find them, either by searching online from subscription agents such as magazine-group, isubscribe or newsagents such as WH Smith are now selling magazine subscriptions. You can also buy subscriptions from Amazon. Despite publishers' best efforts to woo subscribers, many sales continue to come from the newsstand as shoppers prefer the element of choice each month and are prepared to pay the cover price to be able to switch between different publications for a variety of reading material. Sometimes, the buying decision is as simple as people preferring to buy from the newsagent or hobby shop to support their local shop-owner or preferring to buy the magazine in pristine condition from the stand without the postman rolling it up to push it through the letterbox.
Many customers like to choose their printed magazine and settle down each month to flick through its pages. What is changing faster than ever is burgeoning online communities that are springing up to cover all types of hobbies, so consumers are researching their hobbies online in forums, blogs, ezines. Publishers are having to make sure that their sales continue against the competition of user-generated content that is freely available. As sales of smartphones, apps and tablets soar, this is a whole new platform for selling paid-for content. Digital magazines are introducing a completely new platform to magazine publishing. It's exciting times.
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Do you prefer print or digital magazines?
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