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Disney’s New Membership Club: D23

Those of you who follow Disney business news are already aware of Disney’s new fan club, D23.

For those of you who don’t follow the business side of the Disney company, D23 is something that the Disney marketers have put together to compete in the value-added, information marketplace that was left with a giant void when the various Disney Club, Magic Kingdom Card, Disney Magazine, and other promotional programs closed down.  They’re calling D23 a “fan community”.

For $75 a year, D23 members get 4 glossy, high-quality magazines a year, along with some extra doodads and opportunities.  Other websites have done a wonderful job dissecting the D23 program announcements, so it is unnecessary to repeat the bulk of the details here.

Suffice it to say, the general consensus across the Disney fan sites is that…

  • Fans are happy to have Disney producing a quality, informative magazine again.  D23 appears to be something that isn’t aimed at kids, but those who appreciate the history of the parks, the films, and characters. After Disney Magazine folded, the only place to turn for a few years was Tales from the Laughing Place, an absolutely beautiful magazine to look at, and one that had in-depth features on fascinating obscure topics.  It’s not a children’s magazine by any stretch. If you’re not going to subscribe to D23, do yourself a favor and subscribe to Tales. Celebrations magazine from Tim Foster and Lou Mongello, with contributing writers ranging from Steve Barrett to Cara Goldsbury to Jim Korkis, tries hard to be a fan-run magazine catering to other Disney fans.  While I have enjoyed reading the first few issues so far, it feels as if I am not the intended target audience the magazine is aiming for (rather, it is aiming for families or first-time visitors). So while there are magazine alternatives specializing in Disney material, D23 is most similar to Tales.  Is D23 different enough to win back those readers who left to find information elsewhere?
  • At $15 per magazine, the bookstore price for D23 seems a little steep.  At $75/year, the club member is only spending a few dollars more for the D23 membership.  Assuming that they would buy all four issues of the magazine each year, it appears to be a no-brainer to pony up the extra bucks.  The question is whether the casual Disney fan would see even $15 dollars worth of value in each magazine, let alone the full-ride $75.�What comes into play is whether the casual Disney fan is already subscribing to the other magazines already (Tales has a US$9 cover price) .  If so, there needs to be some real value-add in the D23 extras.

Which brings me to the extras:  while the program has only been live for a short while, there may be plans afoot to really make being a member worthwhile… especially if D23 keeps up exclusive, member-only opportunities.

Opportunities such as the just-announced, still-being-figured-out, D23-only screening of UP.   Let’s hope they do this nationwide in major markets as opposed to only in Anaheim, New York, or Orlando.  If they make exclusive screenings too exclusive, members will leave D23 in droves when it comes time for renewals.  Time will tell if the people behind D23 have what it takes to win back the Disney fans who have left for other information sources.  They’ve proven that limiting shopping options turns fans away, so hopefully D23 will not repeat those mistakes.

Still, this is a step in the right direction.  I’m more than happy to pay a few extra dollars a year for the magazines in order to see advance exclusive screenings of UP, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, or whatever else Disney decides to throw to the members. 

As long as D23 remembers that there is a mature, intelligent market that is willing to buy into the program and continues to keep adding value and features to it, D23 should succeed.  We may not all buy an exclusive $800 pen, but $75 for some level of special treatment is certainly within reach.

Let’s hope that this is an ongoing product, and not something that will be taken off the market in six months before it has a chance to prove itself.

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