Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Leaving magazine subscribers in the lurch is bad for the business

They weren't the first magazines and probably won't be the last to close up shop, leaving subscribers in the lurch. Back in February, YES and KNOW magazines of Victoria, B.C. were suddenly shut by the Mad Science Group of Montreal. At the time, there were muted noises from the company's counsel that some arrangement would be made to compensate people who paid their money and were not getting their magazines, a refund or or any alternative. Since then, nothing.
Similarly, in August last year, Harrowsmith Country Life, the six-times-a-year magazine published by Malcolm Publishing, was closed and the staff let go. Some subscribers -- a minority -- who had bought their subs through the Rogers Subscription Service, had their contracts fulfilled by receiving Garden Making magazine. Other, persistent subscribers (but only if they were really persistent) were reported to have gotten their money back by pestering the publisher. But many others were left hanging.
In both instances, it sometimes took a while for readers to even realize that they'd been had; when they did, however, they sometimes lamented the loss of magazines they loved as much as they railed against the business practices that took their money and didn't deliver the goods. In either case, this can't be good news for the magazine industry generally.
If you want to see how readers feel, link here to comments from readers of Harrowsmith Country Life. And here to comments from readers of YES and KNOW. Comments such as 
"I noticed too late that the magazine subscription I was giving as a gift had not shown up. I'm really furious that the Mad Science Group was taking subscription money right up until the last day. It's unethical, in my opinion."
"I am ------- pisted to know I paid money for and gave a gift to a child who will not receive anything. we could have been given notice, I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER MAGAZINE FROM READERS DIGEST OR ANYTHING ELSE." [note, Mad Science has nothing to do with Reader's Digest, but it takes a hit.]
"I am so angry about this. I loved that magazine. I don't even care that I lost 40 bucks when I renewed my subscription at Christmas. Harrowsmith was a Canadian jewel and to see it being wiped away because of mismanagement really ticks me off."
Publishers sometimes seem to think that because an individual subscription transaction is relatively small, the fuss subscribers make should be equally modest. Nobody will be going to small claims court over a $30 sub. But often forgotten is the reasons these people bought these subs in the first place, for themselves, for their families, as gifts, for their grandchildren and so on.
Of course publishers sometimes run into difficulty or run out of money, whether because of mismanagement or forces beyond their control. It's not possible to quantify the damage these disappearing publishers do to the reputation of others who are still around, meeting their obligations; who can blame a reader for being wary of future commitment when the favour is not returned? Subs are little contracts, entered into in good faith by the subscribers and, one would think, by the publishers. When the magazine just stops coming, without a word, it's upsetting, annoying and insulting.
In other industries, such as travel, a fund compensates people when their airline goes bust or the package tour operator leaves them stranded on the beach. The scale is different, but the whole industry is required to contribute.
But it would seem that magazine subscribers are on their own, without a word of regret or a refund of their money. It gives everyone in the magazine business a bad name.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and how can we forget Dauphin Media, and those poor stranded subscribers of Holmes Magazine and most recently - the NFL magazine?

Did any of this EVER get worked out? Was Mike Dunphy (CEO of Dauphin) ever reached for comment following the closure of the NFL publication?

In my opinion - this was the worst case of "leaving subscribers in the lurch" in recent history.

5:00 pm  

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