I love magazines, but the way we treat our readers is infuriating. I've already explained the perverse economic incentives that result in us carpet bombing the world with "blow-in" subscription cards. Now I want to highlight the subscription offers that magazines send through the mail. They're full of lies.
Here's one I got today, which I've taken the liberty of annotating:
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.
Why do magazine circulation departments treat people like idiots? Well, sadly you know the answer to that one, too: because it works. Is the sort of reader who responds to this kind of insultingly dumb deceit really the target audience for this magazine?
(To anticipate the obvious response: yes, our own Wired subscription offers use some of these tricks, too. But the good news is that these are largely legacy issues, and we've got a new team in our circulation department that is revamping all of our marketing materials, shifting much of that job to the web. It won't happen overnight, but the first step of the cure is admitting that you've got a problem, etc...)
(And to anticipate the other obvious question: yes, I subscribed anyway. But on the website, not by responding to this moronic letter.)