Proposal to MPC and FN for online MPC Store
Some of the readers of the magazine Maximum PC (MPC) owned by Future Network USA, a division of Future Network PLC (FN), have expressed the desire for an expanded MPC product and feature line. Repeated communication and discussion by MPC readers through Delphi Forum’s Commport (The Commport) and the MPC forum attest to the significant interest in an MPC feature/product expansion. Unlike many other hardcopy magazines, many of MPC’s readers are “fans” and are proud to be readers of the magazine. The lack of support for this “fandom” is a missed marketing and customer retention opportunity.
The purpose of this document is to explore possible extra-print options for MPC to expand into. The objectives of this proposal are limited to extra-print options in an effort to “expand” MPC rather than change it. Toward this goal, a number of things are discussed:
• The types of product MPC readers have suggested or have expressed a desire for.Discussion
• Possible methods of delivery.
• Addressing piracy concerns.
• Addressing funding concerns.
Maximum PC (MPC) is a magazine with a large following. Yearly circulation reaches approximately four million copies. The MPC target market is the computer hobbyist, enthusiast, and consumer. Magazines of this class often develop a devoted following or “fandom”. Forum members indicate this devotion in posts. In fact, the very existence of two well populated MPC related forums is an indication of this "fandom".
Like any product that develops such a following, merchandising becomes a viable and customer desirable aspect of the product. Often large parent companies are blinded to the real value of such endeavors because the profit margins are small in comparison to the parent product – in this case a hardcopy magazine. What the parent company may fail to see is the marketing and branding potential of such efforts. Further, publicly shared companies may fail to see the usefulness due to a business and shareholder taboo called “defocusing” in this proposal. Defocusing occurs when a company strays from its proven objectives. An example would be a car company developing and investing in a program to build motorcycles. Such programs often make shareholders “nervous” as they can have a tendency to distract the company from its proven objectives and mission. A company may view merchandizing in this “defocusing” light as a distraction and one of small profit potential. However, merchandizing can be a form of promotion and support for the parent product and increase profits through more parent product sales rather than large profit from the merchandise itself.
Merchandizing allows for product advertisement with much, if not all, of the expense transferred to the devoted consumer. The consumer enjoys aligning themselves with a product they believe in and continues to invest in the product both financially and, in the case of the “fan”, in a less tangible but still important emotional role. This is a form of branding.
Branding occurs when a consumer has decided that they trust a product and it is more useful to them than a similar product. Often this perception of usefulness is not based on a tangible rational, but one of familiarity, trust, and camaraderie. Fostering these aspects is important and, in the case of a product with a “fan” following, developing camaraderie is key. Merchandizing and participation are useful tools in developing a sense of “belongingness” to a product. While MPC has made efforts to foster reader participation in the form of online forums, merchandizing seems lacking and should be addressed.Products
A number of products have been suggested by readers via the online MPC affiliated forums. They include “fan” type products as well as products designed to make the MPC experience a better one. The list that follows should not be considered all inclusive.
• MPC coffee mugs
• MPC adhesive PC case badges and stickers.
• MPC t-shirts and other clothing apparel (hats, sweatshirts etc…).
• MPC Annual binders.
• Posters covering various reference subjects.
• CD racks (with the MPC logo, 12 CDs but can attach to each other as a collection expands)
• MPC Memorabilia (i.e. old radio show)
• Back issues in hardcopy format available up to date.
• Back issues or annuals in DVD / PDF form available by year with a black out period (explained below)
• Patches (preferably humorous)
• Key chains
• MPC branded computer tools
• MPC exclusive software applets (such as the MPC screen saver)
• MPC Books and desk references (already being published)
Readers have suggested an MPC online store as a method of delivery for products. Additional methods can include the magazine its self for products that can be incorporated (like stickers). It is important to note that not all PC savvy persons trust the use of a credit card online and alternative avenues such a certified check and money order should be available. The online store should be advertised both in the magazine and at the MPC website.
Anytime an electronic medium is employed, piracy becomes a concern. In the above product suggestions an electronic version of back issues was suggested. This is important to some readers for reasons of storage. A DVD can hold twelve issues including CD content and take up very little space. To combat piracy, the DVD’s should be issued with a six to twelve month lag. Further, it may be possible to archive very old issues and sell them - including Boot Magazine. Because of molding expenses in a short run production, it may be an advantage to burn DVD’s in house.
While initial funding is required, care should be taken in introducing products in order of highest popularity and profit level. The MPC store should be self sustaining using its own profits to expand itself whenever possible (positive feedback loop). Additional funding may come from marketing budgets when needed. However, the MPC store should be considered a marketing tool and not a profit tool in itself. The goal should be to establish a self sustaining marketing device with few input needs in both man hours and direct funding. A third party for actual operation should be considered.
(I figured - well, why not? If you actually read down this far, tell me