Mag Nation is constantly faced with a dilemma. We try to be different and non-commercial in the way we do things, and yet, the reason other companies are commercial is….well…. it is commercial!
Our website is a prime example of this. Increasingly we are using it to engage with you, our audience. We think our website is fun and perhaps a little quirky (eg the magdentifier as seen below). Yet ultimately, it needs to sell lots of magazine subscriptions, books, t-shirts and stationery items if it is to help us to survive.
Mag subscriptions have been growing rapidly, and we have high hopes that the other products making up “the third floor” will prove popular. However, we know that we still turnover less than 0.5% of the volume that the large online players do, despite the better service that we think we offer.
We can’t afford the mass brochure drops or tv advertising that they do, and we don’t have a team of 20 people dedicated to search engine optimization, affiliate marketing and all the other stuff that we have had to rapidly educate ourselves on. All we have is our personality, and as much as Billy Joel loves us just the way we are (!?!?), personality doesn’t cut it in from a “hey we exist” perspective compared to a brochure hitting every physical mail box in Australia and New Zealand 3 times a year. Fewer than 1 in a 100 people in our home cities of Melbourne or Auckland have even heard of us, let alone the rest of Aus and NZ. So how do we build awareness of what we have to offer, without spending a fortune (that we don’t have) to “buy” awareness?
When we look at the other large online players, their sites are inundated with commercial offers. Buy a sub to magazine X and win a set of steak knives. Buy two subs at the same time and go into the running for a trip to the moon. You get the idea. As magazine purists, we tend not to care so much about the free gimmicks. That said, these other guys are probably a lot smarter than we are, and I’m pretty sure that they do it because it damn well works.
And so here we are back at our original dilemma (don’t you love it when the ramble of a blog post does a full circle?) Should we be more commercial to sell more subscriptions? We have given it a try… Currently if you subscribe to one of 6 different mags, you go into the running to win a free trip to Paris. Does this float your boat? If you are reading this blog, then you are obviously in the 1% who knows who we are. To generalise, you are more likely to be passionate about mags than the 99% who have never heard of us. Would this chance to go to Paris make you more likely to purchase something? Or does it stink of commercialism and turn you off?
Ok – too many damn questions. We have to walk a fine line and perhaps the trade-offs between commercial strategies that keep food on our table vs maintaining our personality and integrity don’t actually have to be trade-offs. Maybe the real answer is to keep doing what we have been doing – try lots of random, different things and those that work get put down to my genius while those that crash and burn were ideas that can be attributed to our Operations Manager!