The Insane Bailout Plan of the Failing Magazine Circulation Crisis…

October 2, 2008

Followers of my blog will recall my stand on the crazy subscription prices for magazines. For years I have been advocating charging the right price for the right magazine both on the newsstands and by subscription. Our industry is going insane and the offers magazines are making to prospective subscribers show once again that the big magazines, and some smaller magazines, are more than willing and ready to give their magazines away for free.
I read with interest today the report from Europe on the fate of the free-distributed newspapers. I hope they are wrong, but every time you are willing to give your content for free, my experience and my gut-feeling tell me that you will succeed in the beginning than you will hit ground zero. I wrote a book called Selling Content that focused mainly on the art of packaging your magazine so it will sell. Yes SELL and not give away.
So, why do magazines continue taking this suicide route of giving their publications away for free. This week I picked up two magazines and was surprised by their bail out packages to salvage their subscription numbers and get more of what I call “counting customers instead of finding customers who count.” Inside the October issue of Reader’s Digest a subscription card inviting you to fill in the information to receive 12 more issues of the magazine for free just because you paid $3.99 to buy the magazine on the newsstand. So for a mere $3.99 you now receive 13 issues of the mass circulating Reader’s Digest.
The same is true with the ultra specialized Sporting Classics magazine that has a skyline cover line screaming the fact that “Buy this magazine and get 2 issues free!!!” That is half-a-year subscription for the price of one issue you pay at the newsstand.
If that is not an insane bailout plan, I do not know what is the definition of insane! I doubt that any of the aforementioned issues will be discussed at the Magazine Publishers of America’s American Magazine Conference in San Fransisco next week, but I am sure that the organizers and attendees are going to have a great time. I doubt that there will be a vote on a bailout plan for the magazine circulation crisis. Stay tuned, they may surprise us!


  1. A free print magazine, left out in the right locations, combined with a website that pushes the brand into multiple areas is the magazine model of the future. The success of Vice magazine is a perfect example. Other great free magazines are Aurthur and ANP Quarterly. Not to mention amazing customer magazines like Uniqlo and Acne Paper.

  2. You think Reader’s Digest hit a new low? Today I noticed a free year to Marie Clair on my Walgreen’s receipt.
    Samir’s respond: Thank you Elizabeth… I found myself speechless.

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