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 subscribe.condenastdigital.com:
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 https://subscribe.condenastdigital.com/subscribe/crosssite-cn/110190?source=16954_VYF
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.

Comments

  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
    #CancelVanityFair
    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!!

  6. I’ve been paying for the international subscription for many years – sure, it costs a lot more, but they have to mail it to me. This year, they wanted $199 for another year, while offering new subscribers the “old” $169 rate (they also offer a 12 week reduced rate and a free bag, but I expect some kind of gimmick). Pretty hacked off that they wanted to charge me $30 more for being loyal to them. I’ve cancelled the auto-renewal so that kind of backfired on them, I guess. Was actually more annoyed that when I went to cancel online, they suddenly offered me a $30 reduction to stay, so they know exactly what they’re doing, just trying to get extra money from everyone who trusts them to act decently.

    • Hi Jack

      i would really like to know, how you cancelled your subscription as i tried several email adresses and nobody responds. I have the same international rate and fell once for their 8$/3 month offer.

      • (800) 825-2510
        Option 7

        I tried a few times but they seem to have limited number of live voices, so use speakerphone and listen to the jingles – and periodic apologetic recorded voice – eventually you get a live person who , in my case canceled the sub. I did ask about a reduced rate as I could go to a reseller for $58, rather than the 139 charged for a year.

        Hope the number works for you

    • Domenica says

      If I subscribe with their introductory offer (12 weeks) with an international subscription, can I cancel right after the 12 weeks? I would like to know if it’s easy to cancel, i’m from Italy and i’m having difficulties understanding their website. They say you can cancel whenever you want. It is true though? What’s your experience?

      • May be not relevant anymore, but they didn’t make it particularly easy – you have to chat with a live person to be able to cancel.

      • It’s perfectly easy to cancel – you just log into your account via the New Yorker website and cancel with the click of a button.

  7. Conde Nast (The New Yorker) is controlled by the Newhouse family and Advance Media. They also control the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey — and have the exact same, subscriber unfriendly policies and service. You’re auto-renewed unless you opt out, etc. It’s even worse with the Newhouse newspaper though. Unlike the New York Times, you can’t turn it off (and get credit) when you go away on vacation. You get billed extra for papers at “special” holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you only subscribe to the paper on weekends, you have to take (and be charged for it) on the holidays. You can’t pause your subscription online.

    The Newhouse circulation department should work harder at seeing which of their policies is alienating subscribers most.

    • Well, I assumed the charge of $160.49 for The New Yorker on my credit card bill was some sort of fraud. Went to my account online and saw the phone number was the same, and that my subscription had autorenewed for a year, and this was how much it cost. So I called them and the extremely nice but embarrassed subscription clerk said that was how autorenew worked. So she canceled that bill and was able to offer me two years for $69 as a new subscription.

  8. Glad I found this blog. I called the 800 number and was offered a year at $99.99. I counted with $50 and the rep said ok. In fact, it’s 50 issues, which is more than a year, since they actually skip several weeks on their issue calendar. (I also tried $99 for two years, which one of the resellers has posted online, but rep said she couldn’t meet that deal.)

  9. Reading above, I didn’t counter with $50. Instead, I canceled the mag and was refunded 149.99. Now, I find I can get for 99 bucks two years on cheapmagazines.com. I still have to find out about digital access. anyone know about digital? thanks,

  10. I went on to the New Yorker Customer Care website and cancelled my autorenewal and then printed out the page.

  11. Tried the 800 number and pressed 8 to talk to a human. Told her I was confused with a bill for renewal at
    $119 when sites on the web were $58. No problem, she said they would meet that price, and I renewed for one year. Thanks for the info all who wrote.

  12. I tried this and they only offered me $89. I did not pursue.

  13. Maria A Ladd says

    Yes! The person that I spoke with was very nice and professional. I wish I could recall their name because they desearve the kuddos. In five minutes my problem was solved and a great weight is off my shoulders. Thank you for sharing the phone number.

  14. Patricia Ward says

    What. A. Scam. New Yorker you should be ashamed. I continue to get irate subscription renewals in the email. I finally called. She said I auto-renewed. I did no such thing.

    I think I’ll email John Oliver about this scam.

    I’ll never read another New Yorker magazine. And neither will any of my friends.

    New Yorker clean up your act. That also goes for the rude customer service given by CondeNast.

    Patricia Ward

  15. I just called in response to my automatic renewal rate of $149. I was told that the lowest rate was $89. I canceled my renewal.

  16. I was told the lowest rate was $109.99. What gives? Where can I find a better deal? I’m not signed up for auto-renewal and current subscription ends in August.

  17. Aaron M. Cohen says

    Last year I used magmail.com and paid $49.95.

    While waiting for a quote from them for this year, I found:
    – DiscountMags.com $58
    – Speedymags.com $69.99
    – Cheapmagazinesite.com $59.00 if you follow their instructions to trick your email as .edu — or else $99

    The New Yorker’s Memorial Day Sale is a bait-and-switch. If you are Not a subscriber, you get 12 weeks for $6 — then it automatically renews at the normal rate of $149.99 (see small print at bottom of sale page.

  18. Jennifer says

    Just got a bill saying renewal is $149.99 and my card will be charged if I don’t contact them by 7/27. Thanks for all the suggestions above, I will try them!

  19. Jennifer says

    I received a bill from them for 149.99.
    Called them today, 6/8/19, and “We have a special today for 1 year for $50 … ”
    Big diff! I renewed. J

  20. A year ago, after being a regular New Yorker subscriber since 1993, my bank account was unexpectedly charged for the full retail price, $400 bucks! I called and complained and they reversed the charges, but I didn’t get my $36 overcharge fee back.
    Furious, after 26 years as a subscriber, I let my subscription lapse and wrote David Remnick, the editor, an angry email. (To which I received no reply.) I guess he was unconcerned.
    For the past year, I’ve been looking on the Internet for a good deal and not finding one.
    Today, I happened to be in a Barnes & Noble. I bought an issue. Turns out the best deal is found on those little cards that always fall out of the magazine when you’re reading it. Fortunately, the card included a Web address for the offer. Here it is:

    newyorker.com/go/save5

    It pisses me off that there willing to shaft a subscriber of 26 years, but are eager to give their best deal to some poor schlub who just happens upon a single issue of the magazine.

  21. John Broughton says

    I can’t help but wondering what the downside is for subscribing via a third-party seller, like discountmags.com . They’re currently offering a one year subscription to the New Yorker for $58, and two years for $116.

    I’m happy to pay a reasonable price to keep the New Yorker in print. I’m not happy to pay an unreasonable price to increase the wealth of members of the Newhouse family.

  22. Called New Yorker subscription line (1 800 825 2510) re $149.00 renewal price. Got discountmags.com price of $67.95 matched (plus our state sales tax)

  23. It’s demoralizing.
    I just got a snail-mail rate of $25 for 25 issues or, check the box, $50 for 50 issues. A tote bag.
    But I can save $5 by subscribing on-line, if I recite the 8-number “code.”
    I went on-line to the address they provided, but the deal was different; the same price for a shorter period, and no mention of the rate after automatic renewal.
    I had no chance to use the code…
    I became irritated and looked on-line to see if anyone else had the same problem, and, horrors, I find the New Yorker does this habitually and intentionally.
    As I read the notes here, I recalled that I had let my subscription lapse several years ago because the magazine had lost its wit and was much thicker than the content warranted. Also, I got on too many mailing lists.
    I do like the logo, though. Maybe I still have a tote bag in the closet

  24. Thanks for all your suggestions. I have always called to complain, but today I called New Yorker subscription line (1 800 825 2510) and got discountmags.com 2 yr price of $135.90. Just make the call, helps to have your sub number handy.

  25. I had a subscription for Newyorker few years ago. I got some deal $39/year I think. I was on the phone with customer support to fix address issue and able to find out / negotiate a better deal. $25 for 1 year or $50 for 2 years with the catch that I must subscribe for 2 years. But I counter offered and got $60 for 3 years with no auto renewal. My subscription expired in 2018 and I never renewed it. Haven’t found a better deal. It all depends on who you get on the phone. You can get a really angry person and they give you nothing. Just repeat what the online offer is. If you get someone nice you can get to work with you. It is a shame that such a good quality magazine has awful practice with renewals. Loyal readers would be happy to pay $100 FOR 2 or 3 years. They could KEEP current subscribers from canceling. Most people don’t have time to read every issue in its entirety. This sells on the idea that there is great content, and the hope that we will find time to read. The truth is most people never find that time, and these scam like practices by conde nast is putting off loyal subscribers.

  26. So glad I found this – my auto-renewal was going to go up $30 this year to $149.99. Have been subscribing for years but a $30 jump is just too much for me. Will see if they will reach out with some promo, otherwise will live without it for awhile. I love the content but the constant price increases are leaving a bad taste.

  27. David S Locke says

    The most annoying part of all this: people who cop an attitude, like Patricia Ward (April 26, 2019): “New Yorker you should be ashamed.” Not to lean unfairly on Ms Ward–she’s not alone.

    Scott S (January 12, 2019) clarified: the New Yorker is not a free, independent agent. Subscriptions are the province of Advance Publications, who owns Conde Nast, who owns the magazine–logo, typeface, Eustice, and all the rest. We should, I suppose, reserve some gratitude that editorial and content policies have remained generally in the hands of the editors in the years since the magazine’s sale to AP in 1985.

    It’s not William Shawn’s world anymore. (Even Shawn endured two years as an employee of Advance Publications.)

  28. Hello there,

    being an international subscriber (the Czech Republic) I got my first year for 59.99, the second cost me 70 after reduction and the third one made an impact of 80 USD at my account (all electronic versions since I prefer reading and linking the articles on my phone). I turned off the auto-renewal feature quite early and while a bit bombarded with “special offers”, the actual annual subscription elapses and it’s up to me renew. No problems with that.

  29. I had a one year subscription for $45, didn’t get a deal like that again and let it lapse.

    The other day, I saw an ad on the back of my WIRED magazine address leaflet with a new code:

    newyorker.com/go/savefive09

    Still works as of today – I guess that’s how I’ll do it in the future. Let one subscription lapse, miss a few issues, resubscribe a few months later while trying to make a dent in the magazine pile. 😉

  30. I am finished with The New Yorker magazine. Ever since the Conde-Nast sale the subscription renewal price has risen every year — this time 30% more than last year! Sure, we can scrounge around the discount web sites and find better deals (and fill our email boxes with more trash as a result) or call the New Yorker subscription phone number, wade through recorded messages, pressing this then that then yet another key to get to a live person and then MAYBE negotiate a better deal. What is this, a back alley Moroccan fabric bazaar? What a bunch of horsesh*t. The New Yorker used to be a classy outfit that treated its long term subscribers with respect. Should that day ever return, I may reconsider my decision to drop my subscription.

  31. Sure makes a difference who you get on the phone. Not much leeway, was only wiling to go down to $119 so I canceled. I can read it at the library.

  32. Here’s a tip: I called the 1-800 number to renew and told the rep. I was shocked at the annual subscription price hike. First she offered me last year’s rate of $119.99, and when I asked if there were any other deals, she offered me two years at $149.99 – using their renew for one year + one year gift subscription deal – but both subscriptions are for me, one year rolled after the other. Not bad!

  33. Thank you all. I just called the 1-800 number. Quoted the $58 annual cost, which is the cheapest I could find online (Discount Magazines). New Yorker representative met the price for me and another I do as a gift. He was very polite. Seems they are getting this call a lot
    I guess loyalty doesn’t really pay. Research does.

  34. Grant Marcus says

    Ok. Called NY yesterday to renew. They said $150/yr. I said no fucking way. Then she said $89/yr. I said ok. Then she offered another 3 months for $12.50. I said ok again. So 15 months for $102.50. I called back today just wanting to round it up to two years; so another 9 months. I was thinking $40/$50 and I’d be good. She added on another full year for $40. So 27 months for $142.50 = $63/yr. I’m fine with that. Horse trading in 2020. How odd…

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