Subscribers, Not Advertising, Sustain Profitable Media Properties

According to Raleigh News & Observer, Mental Floss, an eccentric magazine founded by Duke University undergraduates a decade ago, has been purchased by Felix Dennis, the British publisher who created Maxim and owns The Week.

The deal brings together two profitable publications with similar subscriber bases that have performed well in recent years despite a severe decline in advertising spending.

Mental Floss, a bimonthly magazine with 70,000 paid subscribers, is unusual in that it does not offer promotional discounts and does not have a staff dedicated to selling ads in the magazine.

“It’s all been word of mouth because we wanted every subscription to be profitable,” founder Will Pearson said. “What looks like a smart move was really something more out of necessity. But it became a model that really worked for us.”

The company also sells books, puzzles, T-shirts and other products on its website and runs a small retail store in suburban Cleveland.

In related news, Ken Doctor of Newsonomics, reports that 50% of the Financial Times web traffic comes from about 10% of its unique visitors, largely the paying ones. Not only do you get more usage from this paying core group, but those readers also become better and better advertising targets each day.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.