After almost four years of continuous development and testing, Maghound.com, Time Inc.’s Netflix-like service for magazines, is finally set to launch this September, Dave Ventresca, president of Maghound Enterprises, Inc., told attendees of the 2008 Circulation Management Conference in Chicago Tuesday.
Ventresca gave a detailed presentation called “A Look Inside the Maghound.com Model,” which included a step-by-step account of how the idea was born and developed as well as a demo of how the site will operate once launched. According to Ventresca, 280 titles are currently on board with the service. He hopes to have 300 titles participating by the launch and 400 by the end of the year.
Maghound.com allows consumers to choose titles from a variety of publishers for a mix-and-match “subscriptions” where they pay one monthly fee and have the ability to switch titles at any time. Unlike traditional subscriptions, members aren’t locked in their memberships and can cancel whenever they wish. Ventresca says that Maghound.com offers “flexibility, choice, control and personalization.”
“There has been this major paradigm shift in the way consumers shop, pay for and manage the services they choose,” Ventresca said. “And this shift has occurred everywhere except for magazines. We still sell on a fixed-term subscription or by single copy with no innovation. And [Maghound] is hoping to change that.”
Ventresca added that, most importantly, Magahound.com offers what traditional subs haven’t in the past: transparency. “As a member, you have a very clear indication of when you’re going to receive your subscription and when you’re going to be charged. Circulation has always been publisher-centric. With Maghound, it becomes consumer-centric.”
The pricing for a membership is tiered—three titles for $3.95 per month, five titles for $7.95, seven titles for $9.95, and $1 per title for eight titles or more. Titles that have a non-discounted traditional sub rate of around $19 or more per year are considered “premium” titles and will have an extra $2 fee per month (10-15 percent of titles fall in this category). First-time users will also be eligible for a free one month trial.
The titles sold via Maghound for now will be classified as single-copy sales on ABC and BPA audits with the possibility of a separate classification being created for the service in the future. Members will receive their copies in the mail at roughly the same time as traditional subscriptions. Maghound will retain complete rights to member names in order to keep customers from getting saturated with direct mail and emails from multiple publishers at the same time.
According to Ventresca, testing done on the beta version shows that the site is not only bringing more convenient service, but also the right type of readers. “We found that those who really responded to the site were of a younger, more affluent and highly educated demographic,” he said. “ And those are the type of people that we went. They are the ones who subscribe to multiple titles.”
Testing also revealed that there was only a light amount of cannibalization of traditional subscriptions when consumers used the Maghound service. “Testing showed that the new Time Inc. subs weren’t coming from customers who subscribed to Time Inc. titles before, nor were they even recent expires,” Ventresca said.
Although the site will not launch until September, he added that the company is already working on “Maghound.com 1.2“ and beyond, which will include new customer offers, improved member targeting, streamlined customer care methods and expanded fulfillment options.