Magazine subscriptions are hard
Starting, producing and selling a magazine is a daunting task, but it seems the market of smaller, independent magazines is rising (and has been for a good half decade or so), with some amazingly detailed, personal and beautiful results.
In my view, subscriptions should (and can) be the backbone of many magazines in terms of sales and revenue. Yet many publishers forego subscriptions completely, or half-ass them.
Simply, magazine subscriptions are incredibly hard. Hard to set up, hard to maintain and manage, and hard to get right for the business and your subscribers.
There is no standard for magazine subscriptions. Compare this to single issues; there are numerous systems and platforms available that make selling single issues a breeze. There is nothing comparable for magazine subscriptions.
Here’s a typical set-up used by independent publishers:
- set up a web shop in Squarespace (or similar e-commerce product)
- create single issue products
- remember that subscriptions could be useful and add a subscription product
Typically, once subscription sales start coming in, publishers use spreadsheets to manage subscribers, creating a ton of manual work, for example:
- splitting single purchases into multiple physical magazines
- copying and updating addresses
- somehow ensuring every issue is sent to the right subscriber
- preparing copies of spreadsheets to import to email marketing tools
This distracts publishers into spending numerous hours working on data processing tasks instead of what they should be doing (making their magazine) in order to fulfil their super helpful up-front subscriber revenue.
Subscriptions turn into one of the worst parts of publishing, but that really shouldn’t be the outcome of people paying up front for your future issues! These people are your biggest fans; managing and sending them magazines should not be a struggle.
About 18 months ago, I started work on an ambitious new web product, Subsail, aiming to completely eradicate the headaches of selling and magazine subscriptions, and instead make it fun and rewarding.
Magazine subscriptions are hard. But fear not. I’m working hard on a solution.