Magazine Subscription Rate Schemes

Los Angeles Magazine sent me a very special offer today. For a limited time I can order one year and receive a second year free. According to my special offer the cover price for these issues is $118.80. If I take advantage of this special limited time offer I’ll save $108.85. That leaves me with a discount of 92%, or a total of $9.95.

Now I don’t know about you but this sort of offer makes me scratch my head and ask how much should it really cost. I realize that they said that the cover price is almost $120 bucks, but somehow I can get it for $10. Maybe it is just me but this sounds like the sort of funny math that got the mortgage industry into trouble, or rather got a ton of homeowners into bigger trouble. Bigger because the banks foreclose on their homes and don’t care. They don’t care because we bailed them out and they have teams of accountants who find loopholes that let them write off their debt.

Or maybe I am not crazy. Maybe what is really going on is that Los Angeles Magazine has massaged the numbers so that they can come up with this ridiculous 92% discount. Granted they aren’t the only magazine that is doing this. I get similar letters all the time and every one of them offers me some sort of  amazing discount. for a limited time only of course.

Several thoughts occur to me:

1) You are an idiot to pay the cover price because it is not real anyhow.

2) I wonder what sort of rules/laws are attached to this. Can I say that the cover price of my blog is a million dollars but you get to read it for free.

3) What should it really cost?

One way or another they are paying for content. Even if they have a team of bloggers that work for free or next to it there are costs involved. They have printing and shipping costs. And of course there are an assortment of other costs that have to be factored in, office space, salaries, benefits, internet, electricity, telephone etc.

See what happens when I am given a few moments to think- it is dangerous.

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  1. Jack April 15, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Actually I sold space in both print and online for quite some time. The print world naturally was far more concerned about space sales because of the additional costs and layout issues. Used to drive me crazy when I would get a few last orders after deadline and be told that they couldn’t run because we couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

    The online world doesn’t have that particular problem.

  2. Mo April 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I worked in magazine publishing for a zillion years and I can tell you that magazines don’t make diddly on subscriptions—between the cost of paper and the cost of postage, it’s not worth it—but they need them to keep the rate base (how many readers they guarantee) up so they can keep charging advertisers the rates that they do. The real money comes from newsstand sales. (And ad sales, natch.) Side note: there’s some weird formula that I never remember that publishers have come up with that basically says each issue gets something like four sets of eyes on it—the purchaser and whoever they pass it to.

  3. Dino Dogan April 14, 2011 at 7:47 am

    That line advertisers use…. “by buying at this rate you are saving X%”, always kills me.

    I could be saving 100% by not buying any of your stupid shit…hows that, dummy? I usually think to myself 🙂

    But…Mags do it because having subscribers is better than not having them. Its guaranteed sales. Its money in the bank. Its deeper indoctrination into the brand.

    They sell you a magazine but they are buying loyalty.

    • Jack April 15, 2011 at 12:00 am

      Buying loyalty is important. Is there really a significant difference between Time and Newsweek. To me it is not unlike asking if there is a real difference between a Camry and an Accord. They are about the same, but brand perception makes a huge difference.

  4. Allan Douglas April 14, 2011 at 4:31 am

    Alright! Now we can post a message saying that the price of our blog is $1,000 a month, but if you subscribe today you can have it for free. Then at tax time we can multiply our subscribers by $1,000 and take that as a tax-deductible promotional expense. Hey, works for me! (grin) (smirk) (yeah, right)

    The Magazine industry pulls some pretty silly stuff, but that one has got to take the cake. 12 issues for the price of one? They must be really desperate for subscribers (or big fat liars!).

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