Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
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Proof that print is dead and why it should be: Bo Sacks

“Tell me one other living industry that makes the public wait over two months for delivery? Name just one!”

I was looking in my files for something about the newsstand industry and stumbled upon a rant I wrote in 2013 about subscriptions. I am and I am not stunned that nothing has changed. NOTHING!

The actual experience and feel of time have changed in the Amazon era.

What used to take weeks now takes days and in some cases hours. The entire consumer expectation of purchase and delivery has changed too. Any company that cannot deliver its services quickly, efficiently, and at a reasonable cost will in the long term suffer. Amazon has trained the public for near-instant gratification.

Magazine subscriptions are for the most part more expensive in today’s marketplace, and they should be. The new model should be of better quality and better delivery.

I am fully fluent in manufacturing, distribution, and inventory control and I know the reasons why things are as they are. But a hundred-year-old system that never modernizes seems to me to be an antique process in dire need of reinvention. Can’t we streamline it and shave off a week or two?

Why not three?

Yes, I know that subscriptions have increased greatly in the year of the bug, and that the post office is increasingly not the friend of delivering anything timely, but shouldn’t we at least try?

Here is what I said 7 years ago:

As you might be able to determine by the title of this rant, I am mighty angry right now. We are sometimes, as an industry, our own worst enemy.

Today I read my friend Samir Husni’s listing of new publications for February 2013. A very nice list of pubs, and I wish them all the best of luck. The one that really caught my eye was Disney’s new Frozen magazine.

I have a 5-1/2 year-old granddaughter, who loves the Frozen franchise. As any loving grandfather would do, I ordered a subscription for little Lena from the Disney site. After the entire process of ordering, I received a message that I should expect Lena to receive her first magazine in 7 to 9 weeks.

HUH! It is the 21 st century and Amazon delivers to me damn near anything I want in two days or less, if I ask. This past Friday I ordered shoelaces and a keyboard and received them on Monday morning. 

If after all these years the print magazine industry can’t deliver a new magazine subscription in one or two weeks, then it dies with the knife of its own making. A pox on rate base and other tricky subscription business plans that hold a magazine’s delivery that isn’t almost instant. What are you guys thinking? 9 weeks is the path to print publishing’s success? OMG! 

I want answers. All the big guys read this newsletter and the middle guys and the small publishers too. Please are you telling me that a new subscriber still has to wait 7 to 9 weeks for a first issue? The exact same battle plans that we had in the 1980s? How’s that working out for ya? Please, please say no. 

No wonder print is crashing and burning. The subscription process is an ancient antique creaking in its own self-imposed death throws. It’s the damned 21 st century. Doesn’t the circulation department know that? Perhaps not. This kind of sloppy process proves that some print is not only dying but isn’t even trying to live. Tell me one other living industry that makes the public wait over two months for delivery? Name just one! 

You can’t possibly survive with 19 th century thinking and decrepit old business life cycles in the digital age of instantaneous everything else.

Bo Sacks
President, Precision Media Group

This commentary originally appeared on Bo Sacks daily newsletter and is re-published with kind permission. You can subscribe to Bo’s e-newsletter here.

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