The Magazine Sub Game: How Does the New Yorker Play It?

The “Final Notice” from the New Yorker says my subscription is about to run out and my express renewal savings let me renew at $99.99 for a year, saving up to 79 percent. (The savings are based on the magazine being published 47 times a year at a newsstand price of $8.99, which means you’d pay $422.53 if you bought those copies on the newsstand.)

The $99.99 a year rate seems high—I got the current sub plus a gift subscription for less than that. So as with most magazines, it may save money to let the subscription lapse and see what deals they offer new subscribers.

Recently I posted about Sports Illustrated offering me a subscriber-only low price to renew my subscription for $56.40 a year. But if you go the SI website the sub offer is two years for $39 and you also get your favorite NFL team’s jacket and t-shirt.

Is the New Yorker up to the same tricks?

A month or so ago I got a snail mail offer to subscribe for $25. Look closer and that’s for 25 issues, not a year, but the offer then does include 50 issues for $45.

Then the mail offer to renew my subscription for $99.99 a year.

Two days ago the New Yorker sent me an email about a “Last-Minute Holiday Week Sale – Save 50% Off The New Yorker!” The cost? “Enjoy 12 weeks of the New Yorker for only $6—a savings of 50%.”

The 50 percent savings is based on its regular Internet offer of 12 weeks for $12.

So the offer is $6 for a 12-week subscription—then how much after 12 weeks? They don’t say, providing only this guidance:

Subscriber’s Automatic Renewal Feature:

Your subscription will be automatically renewed unless you tell us to stop. Before the start of each renewal, you will be sent a reminder notice stating the term and rate then in effect. If you do nothing, your credit/debit card or payment account will be charged or you will be sent an invoice for your subscription. You may cancel at any time during your subscription and receive a full refund for all unserved issues.

The subscriber finds out the rate in effect in 12 weeks with a reminder notice and then you pay that rate—probably $99.99 a year—unless you cancel.

This is a reverse of the normal magazine subscription strategy that asks you to do something to subscribe or renew. This approach locks you into a $99.99 a year rate if you do nothing. How easy do they make it to cancel? You have to try it to find out.

The strategy may be working: I recently got a letter from the Economist offering 12 issues for $12. This is a savings of $83.88 off the regular 12-week price of $95.88. (That number is based on a newsstand price of $7.99 an issue.) To the Economist’s credit, they do tell you up front that the one-year renewal will cost you $55 in contrast with the New Yorker’s unwillingness to tell you their “rate in effect.”

It’s a tough time in the magazine business. Vanity Fair is offering two one-year subscriptions for $26. The Atlantic is $24.50 a year and sometimes offers two subs for about that price. Esquire is $16 a year but “if you subscribe in the next five minutes and the clock is ticking” it’s $11 a year.

The bottom line: Once upon a time the editorial and circulation departments of magazines saw their readers as above average in intelligence. Editors may still think that but the circulation sides of magazines increasingly hope their readers are pretty dumb.

Update 12/23/17: Holiday Sale offer from
New Yorker – $69.95 a year
Vanity Fair – $15 a year
Allure, bon appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, Glamour, Golf Digest, GQ, Vogue, or Wired – $12 a year
W -$10 a year
Brides – $9.97 a year

Update 12/28/17: “This Weekend Only” from
All the Conde Nast magazines are $5 for a one year subscription with the exception of Vanity Fair, Vogue, and the New Yorker, which are $5 for five issues.


  1. If $99.99 a year seems high, what about $119.99, which is what the New Yorker automatic renewal “service” just charged my bank account? I guess this will result in my calling their Customer Service.

  2. Caitlin Flanagan
    Point of order: no one has ever successfully cancelled a magazine subscription.

    • The New Yorker just quickly and uncomplainingly canceled my automatic re-subscription (September, 2018). I had, in the meantime, found an offer for $39.95 for a year, so I am all set for another year. Now I just need the time to read them…

  3. Joan Weimer says:

    My auto renewal notice was going to charge my account $130.43 for one year. On the phone with the New Yorker I got a year for $50. This is a bad racket for a great magazine to engage in

  4. My auto renewal notice for a New Yorker subscription expiring in November 2018 was for $149.99 while last year I paid $99.99 to renew and 2 years ago about $70 so I opted out of auto renewal and will see if I can get a better offer as I will not renew for such an amount.

  5. I followed Joan’s advice (July 2, 2018 @ 7:05pm), called a live operator at New Yorker & got a year for $50. To paraphrase The Big Lebowski: We’re subscribers, we’re not saps!!

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