The Printer’s Devil brings to light a novel approach from PBL to magazine subscriptions.
ACP, part of the Packer family’s PBL, dominates Australian magazines
like no other publisher. With around 49% of all circulation thanks to
the Women’s Weekly and Women’s Day mega titles, what ACP says, goes,
and no arguments please.

So if ACP decides on a switch in tactics, then it’s bad luck if
subscribers miss out. Or rather, if PBL Media head and ACP
rejuvenator, John Alexander decides, then it’s stiff if you’re a
subscriber to the titles concerned.

Specifically Shop Til You Drop and Cleo, both magazines aimed at young
women with a penchant for the plastic and a bit of conspicuous
consumption.

Shop Til You Drop, a bi-monthly, is currently running a promotion with
jewellery attached to the cover of the magazine in retail outlets.

But subscribers ringing in and asking for their copies with the
jewellery offer attached are being told that the jewellery isn’t
available to them.

Well, that’s not strictly the case seeing tens of thousand of copies of
the magazine have jewellery in plastic bags glued to the front cover
for the retail market.

Why? This is a retail-sales driving exercise, not a subscription driver.

So John Alexander and his minions at ACP came up with a nice line of
patter, with a policy change that’s kept quiet for the punters.

Subscribers ringing ACP and complaining are being told ‘no, you get
such a good deal on subscriptions. That’s your deal. Subscribers save
over a third on the retail cover price of $6.50’.

Part of the ‘story’ is that lead times for ordering the jewellery are
so long, that not enough could be ordered for subscribers and the
retail campaign.

Obviously only enough jewellery was ordered for the retail offer. Subscribers were left out.

More important is the policy change driven by a ‘corporate direction’
from John Alexander who has decreed that subscribers will not be
receiving any gifts that are not ‘paper based’. That’s the main reason
for the lack of offers to subscribers

The overriding message for any subscriber who complains is that offers
like the one with present two-month issue of Shop Til You Drop, are
retail incentives only. Subscribers already have a bargain in their
cheap subscription price.

It’s no wonder some subscribers are wondering that if they are barred
from getting gifts with each issue, then what are the benefits of
subscribing to one of these ACP titles apart from the price?

After all, part of the pitch to subscribers is that they become
‘insiders’ and are somehow ‘special’ to ACP with unexplained ‘benefits’
and offers awaiting them.

Obviously not. Talk is always cheap, but if subscribers complain long,
hard and loudly enough, they might get some bonus issues in their
subscription to keep them happy. But it has to be loud and long.

Peter Fray

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