Loyalty program shows it might not be ‘game over’ for the magazine industry

Courtesy of Stephan Mosel via flickr

Pop quiz: Behind AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin, what consumer magazine has the highest paid circulation in the United States? Would you be inclined to guess Reader’s Digest, People, National Geographic, Good Housekeeping or a title common to your dentist’s office?

None of the above.

At 8,169,524 copies, verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, video game publication Game Informer Magazine has become the third best-selling subscription magazine in the country, overtaking Better Homes and Gardens. And while most traditional print media outlets have been struggling for as long as, well, I’ve been operating a computer—magazine circulation is down .1 percent and magazine newsstand sales are down 10 percent in the past year—Game Informer has seen a seemingly impossible 37 percent increase in subscription sales.

How is this growth possible? Game Informer, owned by specialty video game retailer GameStop, has been offering complimentary subscriptions with purchase of their loyalty card. The PowerUp Rewards Pro card, which according to Bloomberg Businessweek usually costs $14.99, provides customer discounts and a free subscription for one price.

Can other magazines replicate this growth? We’ve long seen examples of magazines trying to stay relevant and stave off decline by offering exclusive web content, diversifying content mediums or producing digital replica issues (which Game Informer happens to lead the charge in as well), but can other titles cash in on a creative cross-promotion as successfully as Game Informer has? The magazine is in somewhat of a unique position, in that its ownership by a retailer with staggering reach—roughly 4,500 stores in the United States—makes it easy to exact this type of marketing. Fellow Top 25 magazines don’t have this direct advantage, though duplication of results may not be impossible. For instance, if Better Homes and Gardens wanted to rebound from a .4 percent subscription loss—warning, here comes a business idea from a non-MBA—why not use Meredith Corporation’s partnership with Home Depot, a retailer with 2,255 stores, to develop a similar marketing strategy for the check-out line?

What do you think? Is Game Informer’s loyalty program prowess unique to their ownership, niche and audience, or could this type of marketing be the key to “saving” print media? I’m going to ask my 12-year-old brother what he thinks, soon as I can wrench the Xbox controller from his hands…



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