Penske Media Corporation (PMC) is a leading digital media and information services company with 22 media brands including Rolling Stone, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and Variety.
PMC utilized legacy third-party printing partners that controlled their billing and customer data and provided limited flexibility in terms of pricing and packaging.
PMC chose to migrate some of their big-name brands onto the Zuora platform in order to optimize products, pricing, and subscription terms and gain access to key customer data and real-time reporting.
PMC now has a nimble, flexible billing system that enables them to test pricing and packaging, measure Annual Revenue Per User (ARPU) and churn, and generate real-time reports to monitor the health of the business and inform strategic decisions.
PMC is a digital media and information company that operates in the entertainment, fashion, retail, beauty, and lifestyle sectors. With world-famous brands like Rolling Stone and Variety, their content reaches an audience of more than 260 million users a month in more than 175 countries, as well as 390 million social media followers.
But while well-established brands have been central to PMC’s success, they have also brought challenges from a billing perspective. Many of the brands were founded in the days of print publishing and they relied on legacy third-party partners, not only for printing, but also for billing and customer service.
These third-party systems also owned key customer data. As Jenny Connelly, Senior Vice President of Product and Technology, PMC notes, “ We had to beg for — and even pay extra for — our own data!”
In short, PMC’s subscription technology stack lacked the flexibility to experiment with pricing and packaging and the agility to access customer data in real time.
So PMC decided to overhaul and re-architect their subscription platform with Zuora. They stood up an entire set of microservices, which they call their service-oriented architecture.
But rather than migrate all the brands at once, they chose their battles. “It made sense to start with brands that were already 100% digital, like Women’s Wear Daily,” explains Dena Park, Director of Product for Subscriptions, PMC. “They were the low-hanging fruit, because they didn’t need the print billing platform at all.”
Implementing Zuora was admittedly not a quick process. PMC’s technical requirements as part of implementation were long and detailed. Migrating all the data from the legacy system to Zuora took time but, according to Connelly, “It was worth it “
As Connelly notes, “For PMC, switching from our third-party legacy system to Zuora meant the difference between 0 and 1: it’s binary. You either cannot test digital monthly billing, or you can. It’s a question of not being able to do something at all on legacy systems or being able to do it with Zuora.”
With Zuora, PMC now has a nimble, flexible billing system that allows them to test products, pricing, terms, and more. For example, they have been able to experiment with monthly magazine subscriptions, instead of the traditional annual model. And, as Connelly notes, “Zuora has become our billing source of truth.”
Adds Park, “Zuora is really exciting, because we now see customer data in real time—subscription term, billing period, credit card, churn reports, etc. That's straight out of the box. With our legacy systems, we had none of that.”
Other essential out-of-the-box features include renewal uplift after a set number of months and a foreign currency converter that has simplified processes for the finance team which can now waterfall the dollar directly back to a subscriber.
Best of all, PMC now has direct access to their customer base data — instead of relinquishing ownership of that data to a third party — so they can make informed decisions quickly.
“We’re also planning for the future,” says Connelly. “We’re already looking at which brands will be the next to come on board."
“With Zuora, we have a range of entirely new subscription offerings that we’d never have been able to offer in the past.” – Jenny Connelly, Senior Vice President of Product and Technology, PMC
“Legacy tech stacks aren’t nimble. They can’t respond in the ways that a modern business needs to respond.” – Jenny Connelly, Senior Vice President of Product and Technology, PMC