Magazine subscription cards are a pack of lies

In a highly amusing post, Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson annotates a magazine subscription notice under the title, "When is my industry going to stop lying?" Chris points out the innumerable lies that make up the average sub card.
As you have no doubt guessed:

* there is no such thing as a "special courtesy rate"
* "guaranteed savings" is a meaningless phrase (and indeed you can often find magazine subscriptions cheaper through an agent--check eBay--or a credit card loyalty program)
* it makes no difference if you reply by the "reply by" date
* "statement of benefits itemization" are just empty words meant to invoke an invoice
* all those "free" or "included" things are just the regular content that's in the mag for everyone.



  1. My wife bought a car from her car salesman cousin. When she inquired what does “extra clean” really mean, he said it was just bull$hit to sell the car. In fact, ALL the signs were. Lies are everywhere!

  2. And most magazines are run on free labor of armies of interns (Vogue in particular from what I hear). Quality for many magazines is on the decline.
    …That being said I love WIRED and if anyone knows how I can get a job/internship there please contact me. I am good I swear. Check out my website (linked from profile)

  3. Ad revenues far outweigh subscription revenues. Circulation determines ad revenues. The Audit Bureau of Circulation will let you include anyone paying 25% or more of the cover price as paid circulation. Therefore, for an ABC publication (most of them) 25% of the cover price is the real bottom line for subscription deals.

  4. This is noteworthy? Of course they lie. All ads lie. I thought this was generally acknowledged. From the used car example above to “NOW TASTES EVEN BETTER!” written on a tube of E-Z Cheez, it’s all bullshit.

    Informed consumers are not going to fall for these ‘Look at the great deal, buy it now’ advertising things. Smart consumers don’t make purchasing decisions based on info from the person selling them the product.

  5. I guess I’m not sure why anyone reads dead-tree magazines now anyway.

    In general, the “magazine” format has always seemed a very fluffy one to me. No matter what the subject, you receive (a) massive numbers of ads, (b) massive numbers of photos (that while often cute, aren’t terribly informative), and (c) beginner-level articles on any topics of interest (assuming there are actually topics of interest in that issue, an increasingly unlikely proposition). Basically, it seems like paper magazines are useful only to burn time in the bathroom or the doctor’s office.

    But wouldn’t you be better off with a real book?

  6. I can’t cut the pretty pictures out of a real book and do collage work with them….

    Someone ought to do a magazine of just pretty pictures for collages, and sell it with a glue stick and a piece of cardboard….

  7. #7 – I agree with that, but the same is true for television and the internet. This is a popular media, not fine-crafted art. (No offense mag writers, really!)

    I like getting National Geographic – it’s great bathroom material. It updates every month. It won’t be damaged by the moisture in the air of the shower, and if it is you can dispose of it (Recycle!!)

    I love my books too much to want to expose them to moisture. Mold is contagious among our dead-tree friends…

  8. “When is my industry going to stop lying?”

    Chris, I’ll give you a hint as to when your or any industry isn’t going to lie any more in their marketing:

    When one isn’t born every minute (or today’s rate of one every 30 seconds), that’s when

  9. #s 7: If magazines are “fluffy,” what does that make the net-based entities that anybody with an ISP can establish? No content-distributing entity is fool-, scammer-, or liar-proof, but there is something to be said for systems that include gatekeepers, fact-checkers, proofreaders, and other QC functions. (The dead-tree remark I take to be not so much a critique as a fashion statement, like a black-on-black wardrobe or spiky haircut.)

    My magazines arrive in a portable, physically- and content-stable, archive-ready form. None of which applies to even the most reliable and useful of my on-line sources. Magazines are bulky and lack full-text search, but I find those trade-offs acceptable.

  10. That was interesting to read.
    Yeah we all hate those “blow in cards” and that is prob the worst way to subscribe.

    My national Geographic sub is up and I just got an email if I click thru it is $34 but if you just go to the web site it is $15.

    So awhile back I was looking for a cheaper way to subscribe and looked into eBay sellers while I was trying to verify if certain ones were legit I came across this story:
    Its about 34,000 customers losing $300,000 to $5.00 magazine subs on ebay from Cheapest-Magz scaming them.
    another link:
    Attorney General sues former Bremerton couple that sold magazines on eBay.

    Hell I want a $5.00 subscription but sadly after looking into it, it turns out that most things that sound too good to be true really are. I am wary of ebay subscriptions because of the fact this type of scam plays on peoples greed and I bet ebay has not seen it’s last cheap magazine scam. Also alot of people on the ebay forums are talking about how they think Cheapest-Magz hacked their ebay profile because they had over 9000 positive feedbacks, I myself do not think that is true but I have in the past seen ebayers use devious methods to gain lots of positive feedback quickly.

  11. I’ve subscribed to several magazines from ebay and never had a problem with them. I’ve gotten 4 years of a monthly magazine for $20. Hard to beat that price.

  12. Oh yeah I almost forgot but when I was looking into the ebay rip-offs I also came across this article:
    about how subscribers to wired magazine we getting delinquent account notices from North Shore Agency, a leading debt-collection firm just for not renewing their subscription.

    So I thought the premise of Cory’s link seemed odd at first glance, wired mag getting holier than thou to other magazines crappy subscription practices. But you have to give due credit to Chris Anderson’s straight talk and I love how he said “To anticipate the obvious response”.

    I like how Mr. Anderson honestly talks about how they have used tricks in the past but they have a “new team in our circulation department”.

    Anyhow I did notice that a wired subscription is only $10 if you do it online thats like freakin 83% off the newsstand price! lol
    But seriously, 2 whole years for $20 is better than most any magazine price I have seen.I think I’ll go subscribe to wired right now.

  13. I know my dad keeps a spreadsheet of all the magazine subscriptions he currently has, how much he’s paid for them, and what month his current subscription started in. The “Renew your subscription now” cards start about half way through the subscription, and most of them offer rates significantly higher than what he currently pays. A little patience and a little searching can usually yield a significantly lower rate.

    #9, You mentioned National Geographic magazines not being damaged by the moisture. I know a couple of divers who occasionally take National Geographic with them when they dive. If their ascent is going to take a long time, they’ll pull out the magazine. As one person finishes reading the page, he’ll rip it out, and pass it to his buddy. His buddy will read the page, and stuff it in his pocket.

  14. No experience with ebay magazine subscriptions but I’ve been using for years without a problem. They send out daily 20% notices so you can get magazines even cheaper than the free magazines that come with a 4.69 processing fee. Best free magazine that they have in Maximum PC. I figured for $4.69 what do I have to lose. Now I have a multi year subscription.

    The wired subscription thing is really irritating. I signed up for automatic renewal but then get overdue payment notices. Apparently the subscription is automatically renewed but they don’t automatically charge your credit card. If I didn’t like the magazine so much (and it wasn’t so cheap to subscribe), I’d get rid of it.

  15. How dare those hacks at Wired say anything about subscription cards, those SOB’s treat their customers like deadbeat dada who are late with child-support payments.

    I’ve never gotten such a load of late and you haven’t paid us yet notices from any magazine in my life.

    Like stated above, if I didn’t like the content of the magazine so much, I’d stop reading it.

    Wired, get your subscription crap together or you’ll continue to bleed away readership.


  16. The all new Wired magazine! For just an extra 5.00 per month, your magazine will come with PAPER!

    And on that paper?! TEXT! and IMAGES!

    Buy now before this fascinating offer expires! You may never see these items in any magazine ever again!

  17. Wow, At $70 per year for an international subscription, it looks like I don’t have to worry about subscription cards, since there’s no way I’d subscribe in the first place! Particularly compard to the $10 cost for those in the US. Can shipping really cost 6 times the price of the magazine?

  18. I can’t understand why anyone would subscribe to any magazine that is one half advertisments. By subscribing to these magazines people are just rewarding mediocrity. Luckily in Canada there are a number of really great magazines that aren’t solely driven by advertising thanks to various grants. I can’t say enough good things about The Walrus, Maisonneuve, Geist and Cinema Scope.

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