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Maghound: a Netflix for Magazines?

Time Inc. Plans Online Service to Sell Subscriptions

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After years of development, Time Inc. plans to introduce an online service next year that will offer pay-as-you-go, mix-and-match, highly flexible magazine subscriptions from a variety of publishers. Consumers using the service, to be called Maghound, will be able to pay one monthly fee for three subscriptions, with the ability to swap one title out for a new one or cancel entirely at any point.
Maghound won't fix everything that's wrong with subscription sales, but it does eliminate the need for annoying renewal notices.
Maghound won't fix everything that's wrong with subscription sales, but it does eliminate the need for annoying renewal notices.

It's a complicated bid by the country's biggest magazine publisher to make the web an ally instead of an enemy -- and to find new magazine readers in the process. The hope is that Maghound, which has been in development since 2004 and still won't go live until September 2008, will meet the growing expectations of increasingly empowered consumers.

Industry left behind
"The strategy is basically to create a better consumer experience, which magazines we feel like have not really done, not like other industries," said Brian Wolfe, president of Time Consumer Marketing. "You can point to Amazon for books, Netflix for movies and iTunes for music, but the magazine industry has done nothing essentially to make the consumer experience better."

The current plan calls for offering three magazines for $4.95 a month, five magazines for $7.95 a month or seven magazines for $9.95 a month -- with about 20% of the available magazines priced at a premium.

"You pay by credit card and get charged every month until you tell us to stop," Mr. Wolfe said. "If you want to switch at any point, you can switch off Newsweek for Time or something like that. You go online and make these changes. It's a solution that really addresses more of what consumers want, which is control and flexibility."

The service won't fix everything that's wrong with subscription sales. It does eliminate the need for annoying renewal notices. It also promises to provide more precise information about when to expect magazines than the standard notice today, "Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery." But efforts to actually shorten that time lag failed.

Mr. Wolfe said most publishers had agreed to participate but declined to name them.
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