The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

17 June 2005

Stuff distributed at random

Last month, I was adding up all the bucks I spend on media of various sorts, and noted that my $62 figure for subscriptions to magazines "does not include Stuff, which has started appearing in my mailbox despite the fact that I don't remember ever ordering it."

I haven't been inclined to complain — I mean, I wasn't at all ready for photos of a scantily-clad Danica "Winnie Cooper" McKellar — but three issues have arrived, and I've been puzzling over "Why me?"

Well, it's not just me:

Stuff magazine started arriving each month — no explanation given. If you don't know, Stuff is a lot like Maxim, only dumbed down. Yes, that's possible, although I'd have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Of course, Playboy, godfather to all the lad mags, has sacrificed a few IQ points in the past forty years. (Playboy Interview, April through June 1965: Art Buchwald, Jean-Paul Sartre, Melvin Belli. Playboy Interview, April through June 2005: Les Moonves, James Spader, Lance Armstrong.)

And the perfectly-logical reason for sending out unordered magazines:

Magazines base their ad rates on how many eyes they can promise to deliver. Issues on newsstands barely count — there's no promise anyone will ever buy them. What counts is, how many people get each issue mailed to them. 100,000 paid subscribers are worth a lot more than 1,000,000 issues delivered to Barnes & Noble.

But it would now appear that even unpaid subscribers are considered too valuable to lose.

Considering how little the "official" price matters — has anyone paid more than $12 for a year of Wired since Condé Nast acquired it? — reducing it to zero probably doesn't matter very much at all.

Posted at 7:49 PM to Almost Yogurt


This is what irks me about some of the magazines that my wife likes. Things like "Style", etc. These are 300-page magazines with 200 pages of ads in them. Yet they still cost $5 at the newsstand!

All that advertising, they should be giving them away for free! Of course, most of the people who would pay $5 for "Style" think that "free" means "low-quality", so that might tarnish their brand.

Posted by: Brad Warbiany at 8:28 AM on 18 June 2005

In that case, they should probably charge $10 for it. Revenue from newsstand sales is a relatively small percentage of a magazine's income, anyway.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:53 AM on 18 June 2005

Interesting ... I'd guess that free content delivered over the internet might be pushing prices down, too ...

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at 7:02 AM on 20 June 2005