Anne Holland

OPA Meeting Notes – Online Sub Sales Rising

June 30th, 2003

I’m typing this from the Internet Cafe in Times Square after speaking at the Online Publisher’s Association breakfast this morning on selling subscriptions online. Gotta hang out in NYC until the OPA webcast from 1-2 P.M. of same speech (only more
awake) for west coast people and then blow this steamy town for the beach.

Which, seeing how many empty cubes there were at Primedia/About Inc offices today (where breakfast was held), is what everybody’s doing.

Some stuff I picked up in between pontificating:

– About has just lured Debby Richman (sp?) away from heading up marketing at Overstock to now head up some of their subscription sales online. I know from interviewing her that Debby is the Queen of Stats-based direct response marketing online. If anyone can kick sub sales a** it’s her, so look for About sub stuff to rocket soon.

BTW: Utah is now such a hotbed of sub site selling. Between Debby and Ancestry and Sandlot, guess they’ll have to start their own little lunch group of sub bigwigs.

–’s Taste Test paid newsletter which launched early this year is apparently doing fairly well and testing lots of neat marketing tactics. I look forward to interviewing them later in the year.

– Condenet among others is having solid success selling subs to print mags on its sites. Michael Zimbalist cited 70-90k subs per year as an “average” sales figure for average print mags online. Someone else said it can be a lot higher. Everyone agreed it was often a vastly different group of buyers than the traditional ones.

My take on this is: For years mag sub sales have depended for a large part on two things: 1. People who respond to direct mail (vast majority of subs) 2. People who use mag blow-in cards (the ones that fall in your lap when you read a new issue) to subscribe (tiny percent of subs, but highly profitable marketing

Many many people out there don’t respond to these two tactics. While the online and offline demographics may be incredibly similar, for the first time you are putting a new type mag offers in front of people who were proven non-DM responders in the past. Enough like it to make 80-90% of online subs sold be people who never bought through traditional sub channels.

It doesn’t mean people are different, it means you widened your channel to appeal to more types of buyers.

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