Subscription Agent Offers Tips for Circulators

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NEW YORK -- What is a circulator's paradise? The brand, rate base and editorial strength of an Oprah magazine -- at 90 percent remits, or the portion of a sale returned to the publisher after a subscription agent's commission is deducted.

These guardians of the rate base ideally would like to receive calls only when the agents have 25,000 new individually paid subscriptions. They would like blanket amnesty from the feared Audit Bureau of Circulations, too.

"As the business of circulation has changed over the years, so has the reliance on agents to help make up the shortfall in rate base," said Russell Halley, president/CEO of subscription agency and City Circulation Group.

Halley made those points to a packed room of circulators June 17 at the Circulation Management Conference & Expo. He was explaining how to work with agents, which are firms that help sell subscriptions for magazines.

Start with generous negative remits.

"We'd like to have every magazine at a triple-digit remit," Halley said.

The other two tips focused on simple courtesy. Halley would like circulators to return calls on a timely basis. Not all calls are made to pester the magazines. And he would prefer that magazines give agents advance notice of term, price and fulfillment changes. must keep track of checks that haven't been cashed in four weeks to gauge changes with its clients. The company issues 900 checks monthly.

Like the circulators, "we would also like blanket amnesty from the ABC," Halley said.

He also had a few tips for circulators when dealing with agents.

"Check their references," he said. "Not all agents are good.

"I don't think I've ever been asked for a reference. I find that surprising."

His list continued: be selective in choosing agents; keep them in the loop; enforce rules impartially with all agents; foster and reward creativity; and fight for a superior editorial product.

"I know it's not in your area," he told the circulators, "but there are magazines out there that deserve to die. I can't give them away."

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting


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