For Your Consideration…

For Your Consideration…

Yes, it’s been a year that consumer marketers won’t soon forget…try as they might.

In fact, there’s been such a conflagration of existent and new disturbing developments that it seems only right to try to put these in some perspective.

So, following up on the movie theme of last month’s column, here are my nominees for the “Year 2000 Circulation Agita Awards”:

* For “Most Likely to Keep a Consumer Marketer Up at Night,” the clear front-runner is the continued turmoil in the single-copy channel, featuring wholesalers’ accelerated fees and allotment strictures, along with their tenuous financial situations.

* For “Saddest But Most Predictable,” we offer the continued troubles of the stampsheet agencies, culminating in AFE’s recent decision to abandon sweepstakes after nearly 25 years.

* For the “What Did You Expect?” award, none can rival the growing domination of negative-remit subscriptions–orders that circulators were only too grateful to get, but which, combined with the looming threat of a slowed-down economy, have finally managed to grab the attention of top management.

* The “What Will They Think of Next?” award is well-deserved by various state attorneys general. These folks must be fans of “Les Miserables,” or at least “The Fugitive.” Not content to have devastated one major source of magazine subscriptions, they’re now hard at work scrutinizing one of the few hopes for recouping those losses: automatic renewals, aka continuous service. (See this month’s Briefs.)

* The “Did We Really Need This?” award goes without hesitance to the U.S. Postal Service. As this column is written, it’s not yet certain, but it appears that the USPS proposal will result in raising standard-sized direct mall rates by an average of 6 to 7 percent, not to mention raising periodicals rates by a hefty 15 percent. (See Updates for late-breaking news on the PRC’s decision, and CM’s January issue for ideas for trying to minimizing the hit.)

* Finally, we have my personal pick for the “Last Straw” award: The class-action “price-fixing” suits ostensibly filed by up-in-arms subscribers. If defending the industry against these suits weren’t such a costly and annoying proposition, we might all be able to appreciate the outrageous irony here. The case comes down to lawyers attempting to use sub agent guidelines–which were created in cooperation with an official government agency (the FTC) for the purpose of ensuring adherence to that agency’s regulations–as the foundation for supposed violations of other federal law (the Sherman Act). Yes, this is the land of opportunity…particularly for class-action attorneys.

Okay, enough. So what’s been good about this year?

Well, the audit bureaus certainly deserve some credit for responding to members’ needs in the face of these many serious challenges. BPA International has already approved new definitions of paid circulation and reporting formats. And, as I prepare to leave for the annual ABC conference, the consumer and business proposals that are apparently going to the board do see do be somewhat different than BPA’s. (Again, see Updates for the proposal specifics.)

More on the doings at ABC next month.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping for a better New Year.

Karlene Lukovitz, Editorial Director

COPYRIGHT 2000 Copyright by Media Central Inc., A PRIMEDIA Company. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group