Last year around this time, Time Inc. promised a web-based subscription service, Maghound, by the fall. But as that anniversary nears, Maghound has yet to deliver, representing just 1 percent of individual mag subscriptions, publishers such as TheWeek and Discover tell Mediaweek. Dave Ventresca, Maghound’s president, doesn’t offer detailed figures, but claims orders made through the service average five magazines per month. He also says that orders and cancellations are in line with what was expected, though he also doesn’t disclose what goals the unit has established for itself.
—Getting this dog to hunt: The reason’s for Maghound’s low profile even after several months was pinned on Time Inc.‘s desire to fix some of the system’s bugs before it puts much marketing muscle behind it. But Ventresca insists that Time Inc. has a major campaign set to go once it feels the service is up to par, with plans that include a word-of-mouth campaign, a wider direct-mail and e-mail promotion and some more banner ads. The company’s titles, including People and Time, are also going to be asked to pitch in on a branding campaign for Maghound.
—Some new tricks: In the meantime, the service itself will be revamped. One new feature involves tracking whether consumers order some magazines at the same time, and when subscribers increase and reduce their orders. Time Inc. also hopes to be able to identify how much cannibalization is going on with due to Maghound. The hope at Time Inc. is that Maghound can offset any potential losses in subscribers thanks to its Netflix-like pricing—users can order 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—with new orders.
—Rolling over: While publishers appreciate Time Inc.‘s willingness to try something to build up flagging magazine subscriptions, the lack of resources makes the initiative appear half-hearted. Part of the problem may be that as Time Inc. continues to struggle, as most magazine publishers are, it’s difficult for execs to devote scarce resources to a new initiative. And even if the company did decide to give Maghound much greater attention, it’s safe to say that this unit would require a few years until it could stand the chance of having a positive impact on subscriptions. Whether Time Inc. has the patience for that is another question.
By David Kaplan