Consumers Say Price Discounts are More Important Than Price

Consumers Say Price Discounts are More Important Than Price


Magazine buyers throughout the U.S. are not as price conscious as they are discount conscious, according to the first CircTrack CONSUMER 2003 Survey. Moreover, 79 % of magazine subscribers are either satisfied or very satisfied with magazine subscription prices.

This is one of the many key findings of this study of magazine customers’ preferences, challenges and perceptions regarding magazine circulation tactics. The study, co-sponsored by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, was designed to obtain data from consumers that will help consumer magazine publishers understand the interests, intentions, expectations and opportunities regarding consumer magazine usage and purchasing.

This is the first of six columns on the consumer’s point of view of circulation practices that will run in CM. In each column, a circulation director or consultant will review the CircTrack findings and comment on what the consumer attitudes mean to magazine consumer marketers and their tactics going forward.

Here, Dan Capell, president of Dan Capell & Associates, comments on the consumers’ perceptions and opinions of subscription and newsstand pricing.

Subscriptions: More than 65 % of magazine subscribers said that a price discount “definitely influences” their decision to buy magazines, and 58 % would “prefer” to receive a price discount over a multi-year subscription (21%) or product/gift (14 %).

Capell: This proves that we have done it! We have made magazine buyers some of the most price sensitive consumers around. If 79 % are happy with the price, prices are too low.

Most of the CircTrack magazine subscriber sample (97 %) “expect” to save money off the newsstand price when subscribing to a consumer magazine. Those who expect to save between 11-50 % from the newsstand price represent 70 % of magazine subscribers, while 24 % expect to save more than 50 %.

Capell: Our copy line of “Save 70 % off the cover price” has worked. No wonder newsstand sales have declined over the last 20 years.

Newsstand: The newsstand story is different. While 75 % of magazine subscribers who buy magazines at the newsstand feel that cover prices are too high, only five % said that price influenced their single copy purchase decision. Headlines influenced 26%, convenience (20%), magazine name (19%) and cover photos (13%) were the other newsstand influences.

Capell: This confirms again that newsstand purchases are not driven by price, but are impulse-driven by the cover.

Renewals: The 63 % of magazine subscribers who have, at some point, renewed their magazine subscriptions in “advance” were most influenced by some sort of price discount (49 %). Other major influences to renew in advance were extended term offers (19 %) and editorial content of the magazine (11 %). The “offer” influences 29 % of magazine subscribers “a great deal” when they are ready to renew their subscriptions, and 57% of those influenced by the offer are “most influenced” by price discounts.

Capell: This proves that our heavily-discounted new business prices have to be continued on renewal offers.

Direct mail: Of those magazine subscribers who subscribed after receiving a mail solicitation, 63 % were motivated to do so because of a price discount. Sixteen % were motivated by an offer to extend the subscription term, 12 % were motivated by a product/gift offer, and 8 % were motivated by the editorial content of the magazine offered.

Capell: It’s not surprising that editorial is last. Very few of our postcard or voucher-type packages have any room to talk about editorial.

Insert cards: Insert/Business Reply cards were used by 53 % of subscribers as a subscription source. Of those who used insert cards to subscribe to a magazine, 41 % used a card from someone else’s copy, 33 % used a card from their own copy, and 27 % used a card from a public place copy. 61 % of insert card subscribers claimed that price discounts “most influenced” their decision to use the card.

Capell: This proves that magazine pass-along readership is real. And, the benefits of public place distribution far outweigh the costs.

Agents: Of the 24 % of magazine subscribers who ordered a magazine through a third party in the last 12 months, 61 % recall that a price discount was offered to them at the time of sale; products and gifts 11 %, and extended terms 10 %.

Capell: This is surprising. The biggest agent sources (cash field and PDS) are sold at full prices. Heavily-discounted Internet agent offers seem to be what consumers see and remember. Will our fastest-growing agent source (field/telemarketing) start to decline because of the national do-not-call program?

KEVIN WHELAN is president of KMW Associates Inc., based in Englewood, New Jersey. KMW publishes CircTrack CONSUMER and CircTrack EXECUTIVE (conducted with Dan Capell), which appears in the August issue of CM. Whelan can be reached at 800-567-7706.


The CircTrack CONSUMER Survey 2003 is a product of Englewood-New Jersey-based KMW Associates. The study is co-sponsored by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Research was conducted by America’s Research Group, Charleston, South Carolina. Parts of the study (dated July 2003) were made available to the press in September 2003.

A list of 15,000 randomly-selected U.S. households was purchased from Axciom Corporation’s InfoBase database on an nth name basis. Each name was coded with the appropriate life-style (i.e. Personicx) code so the company could begin to build a database of magazine subscriber households and their corresponding life-style preferences. A 144-question survey was developed with the help of CircTrack, ARG and participating consumer magazine publishing companies. A random-digit dialing survey was conducted and managed by ARG, resulting in the identification of subscriber households that would voluntarily, without incentive, participate in the survey. 3,000 “phone contacts” were established and 1,560 (or 52 %) of those contacts subscribed to at least one magazine at the time. 1,000 households completed the survey, resulting in a completion rate of 64 %.

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