Thursday, June 16, 2011

The false scarcity of qualified magazine subscriptions

I get a lot of free magazine subscriptions at work. I qualified for these because, as a product manager, I did have some influence (though not final approval power) over what technologies our company would purchase. As a proposal writer, my influence on such decisions has waned significantly.

Therefore I paid rapt attention to the notice that appeared on one of the magazines that I received this afternoon. I won't reveal the name of the magazine, but I will say that it talks about Information and it's published every Week. There was a cover over the cover of this week's issue which read, in part:

Unless You Renew Now

To prevent your subscription from being cancelled,
you must renew by July 1, 2011

Renew now at [website redacted]

...Or you will be replaced by another IT professional.
Demand is high!

Wow! This message, partially printed in bright red text, conjures up images of IT professionals who are starving for information, and they are being blocked from getting that information because of some stupid proposal writer who's still hanging on to an old subscription.

Obviously, the right thing for me to do would be to decline the free subscription, and if the publication were to personally contact me, I should surrender my right to this subscription and give someone else a chance.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't work out that way.

Why? Because, over the last couple of years (ever since I switched jobs) I HAVE been personally contacted by at least one publication, and I tried to tell them that I really wasn't involved in IT decision-making any more - but they still really wanted me to keep that free subscription. In the end, I gave in and told them to keep on sending the magazine just to keep the telemarketer happy.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that the same thing might happen with THIS magazine during this renewal period.

Why? Probably because these publications like to have a certain number of qualified subscribers that they can show to their advertisers. And perhaps the telemarketers even receive their compensation based upon the number of qualified subscribers that they can get to renew.

And if you think my story's funny, check this one out - someone paid for a one-year magazine subscription and still got the magazine five years later:

I ordered a Muscle Car subscription for my husband's birthday about 5 years ago and only paid for one year but we still get it. My theory is the advertising costs are based on subscription rates, magazines survive on advertising, not subscriptions. So they keep sending free magazines and show the advertisers their falsely inflated subscriber count to get them to pay more for their ads.

People always said that the Internet could make money via advertising. It looks like the hardcopy publications are actually doing it.

To be continued?
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