Why We’re Offering Everyone a Discount Code (It’s Probably Not Why You Think)

“Would you ever consider offering discounts as a promotion?”

Bryce was testing waters. His new, official position as our online editor involves inventing new ways to guide people to our website. In the last three months, he’s taken charge of arranging our Free Story of the Month and Facebook Live Q&As, analyzing the engagement of Facebook posts and promotions, and thinking of ways The New Territory can participate in important conversations about our region.

Bryce has great ideas. I just wasn’t sure this was one of them.

 

I was afraid dropping our price meant undermining our magazine’s values.

I dislike discount codes not because they reduce revenue—although they do, I accept that’s part of marketing. My reticence goes deeper. It’s about how our society values journalism, literature and design. This morning I recycled a Country Living offer for an $8 annual subscription (a $42 discount) with a free canvas tote. I know they’re losing money. Like so many mainstream magazines, they are gambling on subscriber numbers to impress advertisers.

I get it. I just don’t see a successful future in advertising-based business models, and that’s why we do The New Territory so differently.

Our book’s heavy weight, smaller-than-average size, matte paper, and simple design are as much about saying we’re not like other magazines as they are about aesthetics. Yet until we get a book in peoples’ hands, they still hear “magazine” and think “this should be nearly free.” I was afraid a discount might send the wrong message about what we stand for.
Our book’s design is as much about saying we’re not like other magazines as it is about aesthetics.

Plus, our reader community wants to support a financially sustainable literary system. My friends at Root Cellar, an innovative local-ag business, have said that their customers prefer to share a free food box with a new customer than redeem a coupon for themselves (that’s what inspired us to offer Share Packages of The New Territory). If few people even use the discount codes we offer, is it worth diluting our brand?

 

But what if this wasn’t about discounts at all? What if it was about experimentation?

Before I told Bryce no, I let him continue: “If our goal is to get the magazine in more readers hands and make sales to support writers, we need to be marketing more often than we have been.” True. And since we have relatively few products to promote, he knew he’d feel spammy promoting subscription sales every single week. A discount code with an expiration date could be a new way to get people interested.

If you saw the ads, you know I said yes to the promotion. Anyone could enter “YES18” at checkout and get 15% off anything in the store (yes, even those Share Packages). (Update: how many people did? Six.)

However, I didn’t say yes to make more sales.

I said yes because The New Territory is committing to making more mistakes.

If you read our founding principles you’ll see No. 7: “Our mission needs both stability and change.”

When our team wrote that, we wanted to honor both our community’s need to have a reliable product and our company’s need to push boundaries to promote the print culture we want to create. If you’re going to find new ways of doing business, you need to try lots of new things. Trying new things means making mistakes. So we’ll make mistakes, but it will be in a good direction.

As we start taking marketing more seriously, we’ve monitored baseline data. Now we get to create and test strategies. If I said no to Bryce’s idea, I’d be teaching him to play things safe. That’s the opposite of what I want from our team.

This blog post itself is another experiment. I want to show you how we make a regional print magazine in a digital age, from practical advice to the values that drive our editorial philosophy.

If you’ve ever wondered how we make The New Territory, please sign up for our newsletter and send me your questions! I’ll be excited to hear from you.

Tina Casagrand
Tina Casagrand
Tina Casagrand is the publisher of The New Territory magazine, a student of the indie print magazine business, and 8th generation Missourian hell-bent on finding and sharing new possibilities for meaningful life in the Midwest. You can email her at tina[at]newterritorymag.com or tweet to @gasconader.

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