Sporting News Magazine: Fuzzy Math, a Sign of the Times, or Just a Last Gasp!

October 20, 2011

Long time ago, in not a far away place, magazines used to consider their subscription cards as a legally binding contractual agreement with their subscribers. If you subscribe for a magazine for a year or a specific number of issues, the magazine used to honor your subscription to that entire period of time. You subscribe for six issues, you get six issues regardless of the frequency of publishing. You subscribe to one year, you receive a one year of magazines unless there was a specific number of issues mentioned in that one year subscription. Frequency was and should never be the basis for magazine subscriptions.

Well, yesterday I received a post card from Sporting News Magazine. It read, “We have decided to merge the bi-weekly (28 issues a year, including four double issues) print edition of Sporting News Magazine with our affiliated Sporting News Yearbooks. The resulting publication will continue to be called Sporting News Magazine, will be published monthly, and will generally focus on one seasonal sport preview.” So far, so good. You will say it is a sign of the hard economic times.

My subscription to Sporting News Magazine runs until May 21, 2012. So, I figured they will take the number of issues remaining in my subscription and extend my subscription to the new monthly until all my issues have been sent. Well, I figured wrong. Instead of receiving at least another 14 issues of the magazine, I was told that “after serving your October 10, 2011 issue, you currently have $4.60 remaining on your paid subscription to the bi-weekly Sporting News Magazine. To fulfill that, we will send you 1 issues (sic) of the monthly Sporting News Magazine.” Yes, you have read that right, 1 ONE issue left. The card went on to read, “If for any reason you choose not to continue receiving Sporting News Magazine, please contact us at 1-800-777-6785 (U.S. only) for a full refund on the remaining dollar value of your paid subscription.”

I called the number and was put on hold for ten minutes because they are “experiencing heavy calling volume and if I want to cancel I can go to sportingnews.com” I tried the number again today and received the same recorded message. I opted to wait and when the subscription agent took my call, she explained to me the change in frequency and the way they calculated my remaining “dollar value” from the magazine. She also told me that the new cover price of the magazine will be $8 and the Nov. issue will be a double issue with a $16 cover price, so the magazine is doing me a favor by rounding up by remaining $4.60 and sending me one issue with the $16 cover price.”

I am sure that the folks at Sporting News Magazine have cleared this deal with their lawyers and accountants, but even if it legally a way-out of fulfilling their subscription obligations, I do not believe it is the right way or the moral way to deal with the folks who believed in their magazine and subscribed to it for a lengthy period of time. Even if it the legal thing to do (and I am not a lawyer) I do NOT think it is the right thing to do.

Sporting News Magazine should respect the contractual agreement it had with its subscribers and should honor that either for the number of issues remaining or the time frame remaining. Asking folks to cancel their subscription if they do not like the alternative is indeed a sign of the these tough economic times. I said it once and I will say it again, magazines and newspapers are not dying, but too many are committing suicide. I wish Sporting News Magazine with its 125-year history will not join those who “are committing suicide” by the actions and marketing philosophy they are taking.

In my many years of observing and following the magazine industry, I never recall a time where a magazine encouraged its readers to cancel their subscriptions. This must be a first. Yet, I do believe that there is still time to change, survive and thrive.


  1. Professor Husni
    What do you think of the current trending to practically giving away magazine subs for less than the cover price of one magazine!
    Or look at the Conde Nast subscription offer below…..

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    Choose from 18 award-winning magazines to give as a gift, click here!

    • Mr. Martini
      I have written a blog few weeks back on this exact question. My answer in short, it is pure insanity. It is another proof that some folks in the magazine industry have gone insane. You can’t be consumer-centric and give your magazines away. At the same time you can’t blame the retailers if your magazine is not selling on the newsstands when you offer folks to deliver it almost free to their homes.
      All the best

  2. I sent them two scathing emails almost word for word matching what you wrote above (except I am owed 19 issues and called their actions blatantly illegal). Here was the response.

    “Thank you for your email. Sporting News operates within full compliance of all U.S. regulations, as well as guidelines established by Audit Bureau of Circulation.”

    Which is hooey. If I had tried to cancel my subscription early – I would have gotten exactly zero refund. I expect them to honor their portion of the deal. I believe a call to the Attorney General is next. I know it’s only a handful of dollars. But I’ve been a subscriber for almost 25 years and I deserve better.

  3. […] memory was brought to mind by a piece by Samir Husni, aka “Mr. Magazine” about TSN‘s decision to move from a bi-…. He’s mostly concerned with the ethics of subscription fulfillment (or the lack thereof) as […]

  4. This suxs. I never got a card but I haved moved within the past year and I was coming onto the site to see why my mags weren’t being sent to my new address which I changed by phone almost a year ago. I had forgotten about it until I clicked on link to read a story. I guess I’m going to go back to sport ill even tho it isn’t nearly as good as Sporting news. Well at least they fulfill their subscriptions.

  5. I filed acomplaint with the North Carolina Attorny General and received a letter from the publisher Jeff Price, that was also sent to North Carolina AG. The publisher extended my subscription to Dec. 2012, it was to run out Feb. 2011. I complianed about doubling the price per issue and that I bought the subscription by issue not price. Hope this helpful.

  6. Has anyone received a refund? I am owed $25.11 and can’t seem to get any farther than the 800 number. They keep telling me my request has been sent to the “Home Office” and here I wait since last October to receive my refund.

  7. I went to 3 stores to get a magazine for my son ( a birthday present subscription). I could not find Sporting News on the stands of any store. Now I know why. No one can afford it and the stores aren’t going to stock a magazine of that expense.

  8. I’ve been a loyal subscriber since about 1975.

    Although I didn’t request it, out of the blue about two monts ago I received a check from Sporting News, with a terse explanation about refunding the remaining balance on my account…$80. My last magazine had an expiration of sometime in 2013. When I tried to deposit the check, the check was returned to me because of insufficient funds! The bank also charged me $12 for trying to cash a bad check.

    When I called Sporting News customer service, they told me they will no longer publish any print editions of Sporting News. They also told me they had no record of sending me a check for $80.


  9. It only took Price a few months to destroy a publication that had been around since the 1800s. Nice job Jeffy.

  10. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic.

    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.

    Thanks for great info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  11. […] Sporting News Magazine: Fuzzy Math, a Sign of the Times, or Just a … My subscription to Sporting News Magazine runs until May 21, So, I figured they will take the number of issues remaining in my subscription and extend my subscription to the new monthly until all my issues have been  […]

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