Annals of the Magazine Sub Game—Not the Atlantic, Too!

The Atlantic under the ownership of David Bradley ran one of the saner circulation departments: You paid $24 for one year (10 issues) and there was none of the let’s-see-how-dumb-the-reader-is salesmanship increasingly used by other magazines.

But a note I got today from a literary agent suggests that the Atlantic, now owned by Lauren Powell Jobs, wife of the late Steve Jobs, may be moving toward getting renewals that new way. His sub expires in November but the Atlantic says: RENEW NOW….When you renew today, we will upgrade you to our premium Print+Digital subscription—absolutely FREE, with no additional cost or obligation. Claim your free upgrade….So act now to take advantage of this special offer—and start enjoying your new exclusive benefits! Renew Now.” No more low-key David Bradley—lots of the new FREE-ACT NOW-SPECIAL OFFER salesmanship.

I had received a similar Atlantic email a week ago: That one was “our special 2-for-1 offer means you get one subscription for only $34.50—and a second absolutely free.”  Both offers include the digital benefits that go with a print sub.

Nothing earth-shaking—just a shift from a low-key circulation approach that treated subscribers as intelligent readers. The Atlantic is still nowhere near the deceptive circulation approaches of the New Yorker or Sports Illustrated. The New Yorker continues with its 12 issues for $6 offer with no way to find out what you’ll pay after 12 weeks. (The best guess is $99 a year but I’ve heard it can be $119 a year.)

Sports Illustrated, which I’ve read almost from its start in 1954, this week sent me a LAST CHANCE renewal offer to “loyal subscribers”: One year (39 issues) at $1.40 an issue ($54.60) or two years (78 issues) at $1.27 an issue ($99.06). If you go to the SI website, a two-year sub is $49. Let’s find out, they seem to be thinking, just how dumb our loyal subscribers are.

While the editorial sides of the New Yorker and SI respect their subscribers as intelligent readers, their circulation departments increasingly treat readers as pigeons. Let’s hope the Atlantic under its new owner keeps its distance from that con-game approach.

Speak Your Mind