ESPN, The Magazine: Helping the economy or committing publishing suicideAugust 14, 2009
I love ESPN, The Magazine. I was one of three media critics who spoke positively about the launch of the magazine back when it started. This introduction is more than needed because what I witnessed at the post office last week sent shock waves through my system and caused me to stop and question the wisdom of what ESPN, The Magazine is doing.
Here is the story: I went to check my post office box at the main Post Office in Oxford. I saw a middle aged man taking a copy of ESPN, The Magazine from his box, he looked at the cover and then dropped the magazine at the garbage can. My heart almost stopped. Throwing ESPN, The Magazine in the garbage without even looking at the magazine. I dove into the garbage can and picked up the magazine. I looked at the cover that was half covered with a flap offering the subscriber “Your subscriber thank you gift!” The cover line on this flap screamed “What can you get for $1 these days? See inside.”
What was inside scared me even more than the moment the guy dropped the magazine in the garbage can. The answer to the cover question was “26 issues plus FREE ESPN Insider for $1.” The magazine told the “active subscriber” that “At ESPN, we are committed to delivering top value for you hard-earned money — especially during these tough economic times. That why we are offering our currently active subscribers a Thank You gift they can’t get anywhere else. 26 issues of ESPN The Magazine for just $1… That’s an unbelievable savings of $128.74 off the newsstand price!”
An entire year of the magazine for $1. Keep in mind, this is not an offer to new subscribers, or a trial offer. This offer “is valid for current subscriber renewals only and this offer is nontransferable.” My active subscriber did not even take the magazine home. Is the magazine really trying to help its subscribers in hard economic times? Or is the magazine committing publishing suicide by continuing to follow the dead American magazine publishing model: counting numbers rather than finding customers who count?
I do not believe that selling a one year subscription for $1 is the right answer to the hard economic times. It is, in my humble opinion, yet another example of a print publication committing publishing suicide.
If these hard times are not forcing the magazines to start selling to customers who count, rather than counting customers, I do not know what some publishers need to wake up and change their circulation methods. I do not know when the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) will go back to the good old days when they only counted the “customers who count.” Now is the time to change. Tomorrow is too late.