“Cutting” the hand that feeds you…

August 28, 2007

What if you were to buy a magazine on the newsstand and the price you pay for that magazine is considered by the publisher to be the price for a subscription? Nothing more, nothing less…not even the cost of a postage stamp. The cover price you’ve just paid for the magazine is all the money you are going to spend on that magazine for the rest of the year. There will be no need for you to return to the newsstand to buy another issue of the magazine. Your $3.99 or $5.99 has earned you a year’s subscription. Is this a smart marketing gimmick or another slap in the face of selling magazines on the newsstands? The three featured magazines above are just doing that. Buy them once on the stands and they love you so much that they will continue to send the magazines to you for a whole year. This is yet another example of the blind race toward counting customers rather than finding customers that count. I have said it before and I will say it again, the only solution for the ills of the magazine industry is to start moving toward becoming a circulation-driven industry and not an advertising-only- driven industry. In the business of customers who count, giving away free subscriptions just because someone buys one issue, is the wrong direction. Look at the above examples and judge for yourself. It seems to me that we are not “biting” the hand that feeds us, but actually “cutting” it off.


  1. It does seem nuts, doesn’t it? However, if I squint I can see some logic in the strategy. I’m guessing the fact the subscription involved a purchase, the publisher can treat (in circulation audit reports) the subscription as “paid,” and not “free” as you suggest. If my theory is correct, they would be able report those “paid subscriptions” and increase the advertising CPM rates on those incremental sales. Also, as advertisers are moving towards requirements that audit each issue, and not merely the average readership during a period, the ability to deliver a consistent and precise number of readers, issue after issue, will become even more important. I like your line about finding customers that count rather than counting customers, but that’s what happens when publishing companies are run by bean-counters.

  2. […] Cutting off the hand that feeds you | Mr. Magazine Samir Husni thinks its nuts to package a magazine on the newsstand in a way that encourages people to never again purchase that magazine at the newsstand. I responded in a comment to his post (tags: magazines newsstand) permalink | categories: All other | Time posted: 2:02 am on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 […]

  3. Another reason publishers need to stop relying so heavily on advertising is that advertisers view a magazine ad page as almost valueless. The value of an ad page in a magazine has dropped significantly. Most RFP’s now are requesting alternative distribution means for their ads through either online websites, mobile phones or broadband video. The ad page almost seems like an afterthought in the RFP as it’s the other mediums they want to reach.

    So why are we focusing on a customer that doesn’t really want the product in the first place? I’d rather focus on the customer that does want the product and that keeps coming back to get it without saying I won’t pay a CPM increase and without saying you must give me several things for free on top of that.

  4. I am the Consumer Marketing Director for Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, and I want to let you know that the magazines have discontinued this offer.
    This was a program initiated by the magazines’ former owner, Time Inc., and was discontinued after the titles were purchased by Bonnier Corporation.

    Bob Cohn
    Consumer Marketing Director

    Thank you Bob for the update and best of luck under the new ownership. Samir

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