Wednesday, July 06, 2005

In-house sub fulfillment software for tiny magazines

DB Scott is on vacation and I told him I'd try to think of something exciting to say in his absence, but I've only now found something exciting to say:

For any small-maggers who aren't already familiar with the CLMP database template for subscription fulfillment, AND for any other small-maggers who knew of its existence, I've just heard that a new version has just been released.

As before, it's a FileMaker Pro template, and it's a very good deal for the nominal price. I've had limited exposure to the original version, but it seemed quite impressive, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the new version differs.

In-house fulfillment software is usually either (a) lousy or (b) excellent and extremely expensive (we're talking tens of thousands, folks). For around US$100 or US$200, however, the CLMP database template is a very practical alternative, and would probably handle most routine requirements of most small magazines -- INCLUDING such things as "reports", which are sorely lacking in most cheap fulfillment software packages, but which are absolutely essential for any publisher.

Anyway, here's the link, for anyone who wants to investigate it:
CLMP Sub fulf template.

I don't know how many Canadian publishers have experimented with the template, or who are using it on an ongoing basis, but if anyone out there has some relevant experiences with it (good or bad), please jump right in here and post a reply with your input.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful Jon. I'm very curious about how many Canadian publishers have picked this up and used it over the years -- considering we've been yakking about it for so long.

Speaking of in-house fulfillment, I think that would make an interesting debate. Many small (like, micro) titles do their fulfillment in-house because it's a necessary evil, many as they grow keep it in-house because of the control, the economics of doing so and the politics (I'd rather create a job within the company for a likeminded soul than pay company X to manage my circ on an outsourced basis). But at what point do you think it's time to take it outside? Even mid-sized companies with multiple titles (like mine) see the benefit of in-house circ management, but there must come a point where you ask yourself, do I spend $10K on QuickFill or do I start talking to Indas?

10:58 am  
Blogger Jon Spencer said...

Hi Joyce: I only know of one publisher using the earlier version of the CLMP template... I'll ask them to take a peek at this blog and see if they have any comments to make.

As for in-house/outhouse [grin], I don't really think it's purely a "size" issue. Circ levels are important in that service bureaus may not be able to handle a small title affordably. But other factors include customer service, ancillary products and/or donations/fundraising, and so on. As you point out -- control, economics and politics.

If a magazine is about dumptrucks and the publisher thinks it would be seriously problematic for some reader to call in their address change, then make some offhand comment about dumptrucks only to have the service bureau's telephone staffer mumble "Yeah whatEVER, lady", then maybe a service bureau isn't the route to go.

However, publishers of tiny mags may never have the luxury of considering the pros and cons of service bureaus, and I think that's why the CLMP template and (to a lesser extent) the somewhat pricier QuickFill are so important for them. They target a market niche that simply isn't very attractive since it ain't all that lucrative.

For mid-size mags, it's probably best to start with a comparative "budget" of the economics of the alternatives -- amortizing software and hardware purchases over several years (as well as any one-time conversion costs), and figuring out staff costs, supplies, etc. I think if the economics of in-house and service bureau alternatives are similar, then you can consider the list of other pros and cons. But if the economics make one scenario impossible, it's hard to justify it purely on the strength of the other intangibles.

Either way, it's a huge decision. You can't easily just change your mind again a few months later. At least there is now some real competition in the Cdn service bureau market (e.g. Cornerstone, Indas, Oyster Group, and maybe others). And hopefully some publishers got some benefit from the booklet that Heritage published last year, with the results of the survey Judith and I did of small publishers' fulfillment needs -- at least in decision-treeing their way through this kinda quagmire.

It would certainly be interesting to hear from other small-maggers who have gone through this decision process lately [*ahem*, jump right in any time, folks], to hear what scenarios they were thinking of switching from+to, what they thought were the most important considerations, how they evaluated the alternatives, and -- if they decided to switch fulfillment options -- what surprises (good or bad) they discovered during or after the switch.

11:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Women and Environments International Magazine is using the software. In general it is a gem, keeps info input consistent (which we were not doing very successfully). The reports are good - showing you the conversions you get and such - and only take a click of a button. the only problem i have found to date is that there is no way to plug in an account that gets billed to another e.g. EBSCO libraries that want to have invoices sent automatically to EBSCO. There is nowhere to enter that info... ive got a few that need tracking this way and it would be sweet to get it set up.
In general no regrets. Cant beat the price. howev, allow your circ person a couple of concentrated weeks to get your data all tidy before you import and to work out the quirks (universally impossible in the small mag world, i assume)
If anyone has specific questions pls contact me at

Claire Major
Projects Coordinator, Women and Environments International Magazine

2:35 pm  

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