Change-of-Address Web Service: Promising New Source?

Change-of-Address Web Service: Promising New Source? – Brief Article

Publishers are hoping that a new Web-based change-of-address service will develop into a significant source of subscriptions and renewals–and maybe even bring in some ancillary revenue from purchases of other products and services.

Time Inc., Hearst, Ziff-Davis, Disney, TV Guide, Gruner & Jahr USA, Conde Nast and Hachette Filipacchi have all signed up to test, which upsells renewals and promotes demographically-targeted subscriptions, as well as move-related products and services, to consumers who use the site to change addresses prior to moving.

Boston-based movecentral, Inc. (formerly Before You Move) has been offering customer retention programs to insurance companies, financial institutions and other corporations since 1992. Its Web site, originally launched in 1998, is being redesigned to serve publishers’ needs and tie in with an e-commerce area (Value.move) that will be fully operational by the end of June, according to Pete Lamson, director of Internet development and strategy.

Consumers can use the service free of charge to change their addresses with virtually any organization, including magazine publishers, automobile and frequent flyer clubs, and credit card issuers. However, they must register and supply demographic data. The system uses that data, along with the information on which magazines need address changes, to select and suggest other magazine titles to which the consumer might like to subscribe.

Movecentral, Inc. has a database of 40,000 organization addresses and employs a research team that finds and adds about 150 to 200 new addresses each week. (If an organization specified can’t be located, the consumer is notified.) The site also offers editorial information geared to assisting people in the process of a move.

Lamson says that “a majority” of users choose to notify credit card issuers of their address changes over the secure site, despite the sensitivity of this data. User information is not sold or rented to any outside company, but most deals call for the data to be sent back to the publisher, he notes. When credit card information is supplied, the site is structured so that the user can simply click to specify which pre-indicated card account he or she would like to use for magazine or other product purchases.

Publishers have varying agreements with the agent, but a typical arrangement is a 50 percent remit on renewals and a 15 percent remit on new subscriptions, according to Lamson. Address changes that come from the site will be made to the file through electronic links to publisher fulfillment bureaus, including Centrobe, Communications Data Services, and the Time Inc. and TV Guide in-house fulfillment operations.

If publishers choose to go to Phase II, in which their Web sites would actually feature a link to (either alone or as an alternate option to the publisher’s existing customer service link set-up), they would also receive a portion of any revenue generated on other product purchases made by consumers who came into through their sites, according to Lamson. If two COA link options are on a publisher’s site, Lamson maintains that consumers would choose the MoveCentral one because of editorial and other incentives, such as a promotion for $1,000 worth of discounts on move-related services.

Consumer marketers participating in the site tests say they’re optimistic about the potential volumes of renewals and new subs that could eventually be generated by the COA site, given that, as movecentral, Inc. points out, 17 million U.S. households move annually, and spend some $146 billion in the process. “Conceptually, the whole thing makes perfect sense. The site is being developed along the lines of other convenience services being offered over the Web,” says Steve Sutton, circulation director, Interactive Media Group, Ziff-Davis, Inc.

However, Sutton also stresses that the actual volumes of subscriptions generated “will really depend on how well [movecentral, Inc.] promotes the site.”

According to Lamson, the site is not yet being promoted in non-Web media, but its visibility is being built through links to the sites of five of the six largest property and casualty insurers, other move-related sites, personal organization sites such as PlanetAll and PlanetDirect, and, most recently, the sites of 60 major regional and metropolitan newspapers, including The New York Times.

Sutton and other publishing participants also say that, while they are open to considering new ways of handling COAs over the Web, they’re definitely taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the idea of making a global hub for magazine COAs.

And, although the Stage II option is available as of June 22, Lamson acknowledges that publishers will want to “get the bugs and fulfillment kinks out of the system and see what kind of response they get” before considering a next step.

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