How to Avoid Getting Burned by the Magazine Industry
Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I still do (and proudly) subscribe to a few magazines – and I won’t be stopping unless the magazines close shop. My personal favorites are Kiplinger and Backpacker.
That being said, I get awfully tired of magazines and magazine agents that rope you in with a low introductory offer (usually 12 issues for $12 – or something similar) and then ‘conveniently’ increase your subscription price for you through auto-renewal.
What’s worse is that a lot of these introductory offers are through non-legit distribution channels, and you might not even know it. What follows is a simple process that I follow to keep my magazine subscription prices low and avoid magazine scams.
How the Magazine Subscription Industry Works
I have some personal experience with the magazine industry and here’s a little background on how they and some of the other players in their industry work:
- Magazines make almost all their money from advertisements. No big surprise here.
- Advertising revenue is driven by subscription numbers which influence how much a publication can charge for ads and what advertisers the magazine can attract.
- In order to drive up subscriptions (and ad revenue), magazines are often willing to completely subsidize the cost of the subscription itself. They work directly with a number of agents who will usually get most or all of the cut on the subscription user cost.
- There are ‘rogue’, or unauthorized, magazine agents out there who go through subscription clearing houses. Go through these guys and you might not see your subscription for months, or ever. They generally give the industry a bad name.
When Signing up for your Magazine Subscription:
Order either through the magazine’s site directly, or through a legit magazine agent. How do you know if an agent is legit? They have direct, authorized relationships with the magazine publisher and offer live customer support. Magazines.com and Magazineline.com are two good ones that clear both of these hurdles. But the best and safest is probably Amazon. The last thing you want is to have your personal information sold and/or not receive any subscription at all for the false promise of saving a dollar or two.
How to Get Cheap Magazine Subscriptions (and Keep them Cheap):
Finding discount magazine subscriptions is not that hard. Usually the publisher will offer the lowest authorized price on the magazine subscription that is out there. If you see someone offering lower, there is a good chance they aren’t legit. This should be your starting point.
Now that you have your cheap subscription, the challenge will be to keep it cheap. The magazine publisher usually will automatically begin scaling up your subscription price with each passing renewal. Most of the time they don’t even tell you that it is an increase.
This REALLY makes me mad. Why? For starters, the publisher is saving money by the fact that you are subscribing through them versus elsewhere (remember my earlier point about agencies taking almost all of the cut?). In subscribing directly through them, you are raising their subscription margins. How do they thank you for that? Through higher subscriptions!
Avoid the Magazine Subscription Renewal Bump!
So when your magazine renewal subscription price gets bumped, what should you do? Cancel. And go with an agent, or just re-subscribe through the publisher with another introductory offer (they never stop offering them). And when they raise your price on renewal? Cancel and start fresh again.
It only takes a few minutes of time and it keeps your cost low. Magazine subscription costs can add up quickly if you don’t keep things under control. The only downside to this technique – you might miss an issue. Oh well, most magazines are online for free these days if you’re that upset about it.
Cheap Magazine Discussion:
- How have you kept your magazine subscription costs down?
- Have you been scammed by a rogue magazine agent? What happened?
- What agents have you been happy with?