Annals of the Magazine Sub Game: Updates on the Atlantic and New Yorker

12/19/18 update:

The Atlantic, under the ownership of Laurene Powell Jobs, continues to expand, causing tweets suggesting that soon she’ll have hired all the journalists. Since the print magazine is only about 100 pages, with few ads, the company must be like an iceberg, with the print magazine most visible but 95 percent of the revenue coming from the digital side.

Like many print magazines, the Atlantic has an aggressive direct mail effort aimed at renewals and new subscribers. My subscription is up for renewal in April 2019 and today I got two offers from the Atlantic: one came in an envelope polybagged with the January issue, the other came through the mail.

The polybagged offer: Renew today for $29.99 and give a free gift subscription. The mailed offer: As a preferred subscriber, send a gift subscription to someone for $24.99.

The New Yorker continues to be aggressive on the Internet and through mailings offering 12 issues for $12, or the special half-price offer of 12 issues for $6, with no way of knowing what it’ll cost after 12 weeks: maybe $99 a year, maybe $119, maybe $149. With its owner, Conde Nast, seeming to want to get out of the magazine business, the best guess is it’s trying to make its sub list and balance sheet look better to potential buyers such as Laurene Powell Jobs.

If she bought the New Yorker, she could let the Atlantic continue to focus on politics and other heavy issues and return the New Yorker to when it was less political, lighter, and more enjoyable to read.

11/19/18 update:

Fortune, for years the top of its class business magazine, once sold subscriptions for premium prices—many of its readers were CEOs and didn’t think twice about paying $50 or more a year to read it. Time Inc., which founded the magazine almost 90 years ago, sold it to Meredith a year ago. Meredith has sold Fortune to Thai billionaire Chatchaval Jiaravanon for $150 million. 

The current Fortune subscription offer? Three years (42 issues) for $20. New territory for magazine sub prices. 

The New Yorker continues its bait and switch game with endless offers of 12 issues for $12, or, wow, “a special half-price offer of 12 issues for $6.” But what the New Yorker will cost for the one year automatic renewal is a guess. Maybe $99. Maybe $149. 

The Economist, edited in London for an international audience, also offers 12 weeks for $12, but it’s upfront about the cost of a renewal after the intro offer: $55 every three months. More than a million print readers think it’s worth it. 


Annals of the Magazine Sub Game: The New Yorker Ups Its Bait and Switch Game

August 16, 2018

A reader sent me his automatic renewal notice from the New Yorker:

Thank you for subscribing to The New Yorker. Your current subscription term expires in the month of November 2018. I want to remind you that, as promised, your subscription will be automatically renewed for another 1 year and your card will be charged at the rate of $149.99*.

The asterisk is plus any applicable sales tax.

The reader’s reaction to the $149.99 a year subscription price: “I opted out of automatic renewal so the subscription I have for $99 will just end in November.  I wonder if they offer different renewal prices based on the subscriber’s zip code.  One person on your web page said she got a good renewal deal by calling and I might try that.”

The New Yorker’s entire subscription effort now is based on frequent pitches offering 12 issues for $12 as a great deal or 12 issues for $6 as a special half-price deal.  But it offers no clue as to how much the one-year sub will cost after 12 weeks. I’ve heard $99 a year, $119.99 a year, and now $149.99 a year. My sub now has lapsed—it was a $99.99 a year deal that included my subscription plus a gift subscription—in effect $50 a year for each sub.

Given the precarious state of print magazines—New York magazine appears to be for sale—and given that Conde Nast, after the death of magazine fan Si Newhouse, is selling Brides, W, and Golf Digest and has replaced the high-priced editors at Vanity Fair and Glamour, you might guess that the New Yorker is trying to make its balance sheet look better to potential buyers by milking its current subscribers. $149.99 a year? Will enough of you ignore the automatic renewal you signed up for so we can get away with that?

Probably the best outcome for the New Yorker is finding a buyer as rich as Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who bought the Atlantic from David Bradley and seems more concerned with maintaining the Atlantic’s prestigious place in American letters than in the bottom line.


  1. “Glamour” just announced it will end the print edition.

  2. Richard Mattersdorff says

    T.V. Guide is now biweekly. Although each number is still called a “double issue.”

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