The sticking point in publishers’ negotiations with Apple to sell magazines on the iPad was over who would control the customer data. Publishers said they needed it to renew and cross-sell buyers of their digital content. Apple didn’t want to give it up. But the big irony in all this back and forth is that magazine companies haven’t done all that much to exploit their consumer data. Eddy Cue, Apple’s App Store boss, reportedly said as much in recent talks with a publishing executive.
That’s because for years, publishers have been heavily advertising-reliant—that is, until the ad recession forced them to try to get more money from consumers. Companies like Condé Nast and Meredith have stepped up their efforts in this area, by trying to sell related products and other magazines. But for most, the primary use of customers’ IDs is to renew their subscriptions.
A notable exception is Rodale, the parent of such titles as Men’s Health and Prevention. Rodale mines its massive customer database to sell other products, like books and DVDs, an approach that has reduced its reliance on ads. Now that’s an ounce of prevention.