Annals of the Magazine Sub Game: This Time the Atlantic

I’ve written about the subscription games played by the New Yorker—they often offer 12 weeks for $6 but then try to find out what you’ll be charged after 12 weeks. Usually it’s $99 a year but I’ve heard of rates as high as $119 a year.

The Atlantic, under the ownership of David Bradley, ran a pretty normal subscription operation, but under new ownership it’s moving into the let’s-see-if-we-can-con-the-reader territory.

In the current issue are two subscription cards:

The first offers “2 FREE bonus issues. You get a full year of The Atlantic (+2 bonus issues) for just $29.50.”

The second card offers “One year free!” You can get “YES! Send me 3 years (30 issues) for only $44.50. That’s like getting one year free!” If you don’t want the three-year deal, you can get one year for $24.50.

So the “2 free bonus issues” in the first offer are actually costing you $5.

This sub game would work better if both cards weren’t in the same issue.


  1. John Corcoran says

    I already subscribe to The New Yorker so I’ve been ignoring those internet entreaties. Makes me want to cancel my subscription and I would except, dammit, it’s The New Yorker.

    This kind of misleading attempt to increase readership–or delay its erosion–reminds me of another equally dimwitted policy that extends well beyond the world of magazines.

    I realize it can be a desperate challenge to brick and mortar stores to find a way to stem the bleeding caused by the Internet. But really, does anyone think that cutting back on sales people, offering confusing “bargain” pricing and limiting choices of products is the proper way to go about it?

    Looking forward to an upcoming piece in Forbes or The New Yorker to shed some light on it.

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