Exposed: Magazine subscription rates complete BS.

by Paul Michael on 1 December 2007 7 comments

Have you ever wondered about the validity of those "special offer magazine subscriptions" you get in your mailbox? As someone who gets most of his magazines for free through various free subscription sites, I never really gave it much thought. But then I read an article by Chris Anderson, of Wired magazine, and he exposes some ugly truths about subscriptions.

Longtail.com recently published an article by Mr. Anderson that highlights the trcikery involved in magazine subscriptions. You can read the complete article here but this excerpt gives you the meat of the argument. All you need to do is take out any of the "special offers" you receive in your mailbox (I get them daily) and cross-reference them with the following list of facts.

  • there is no such thing as a "special courtesy rate"
  • "guaranteed savings" is a meaningless phrase (and indeed you can often find magazine subscriptions cheaper through an agent--check eBay--or a credit card loyalty program)
  • it makes no difference if you reply by the "reply by" date
  • "statement of benefits itemization" are just empty words meant to invoke an invoice
  • all those "free" or "included" things are just the regular content that's in the mag for everyone.

The basic marketing logic behind all of this is based on consumer gullibility. If you tell them that you must reply by a certain date, then guess what, they will. If you tell them they're getting a special courtesy rate, they'll feel special.

This goes way beyond magazine subs, too. One tactic I'm increasingly sick of is the seasonal sale. In Colorado, we have a store called American Furniture Warehouse. And they have a sale every day of the year. If it's July 4th, it's the Independence Day sale. If it's Labor Day weekend, the same. But when there's no particular holiday, they make one up. "The boss is on vacation" or "Falling prices in fall" or any other trite link is used, and it works. The store is always chock full of consumers looking for a bargain. And these stores can get away with it because as long as something in the store is genuinely on sale, they're in the clear. Most of the items in the sale are the same price the whole year round.

And this gets us back to magazines. Those subscription rates you can get by just calling up a contact number in any magazine and asking for the subscription department. You don't need a savings card or an invitation, magazines are happy to give you a stellar rate because it increases their readership figures, which means higher advertising revenues. Cha-ching.

So, next time you think you're getting snowed by a magazine subscription offer, just call and ask for a better rate. You'll most likely get it.

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Guest's picture
Guest

So where do we go to get all the free magazines?

Guest's picture
Kim

Most you can read online - such as Newsweek.com, etc also Newspapers except wsg!

Paul Michael's picture

Try freebizmag.com, that's what I use and I get everything from Wired to Elle (for my wife...ahem)

Guest's picture
Carol Mickey

I also live in Colorado and everytime we hear a tv commercial by American Family Warehouse or Kohl my husband and I turn to each other and say "Imagine, they are having a sale" and then we laugh.

Guest's picture

Yeah, I usually ignore the subscription offers I get in the mail. You can usually find a better deal online, or better yet just read the magazine from their website.

Guest's picture

Yeah, I heard somewhere that ebay was a reliable source for cheap subscriptions for peanuts too...

Guest's picture

Yeah, I heard somewhere that ebay was a reliable source for cheap subscriptions for peanuts too...