Thursday, March 04, 2010

Entertain This ...

I am a long-time subscriber of Entertainment Weekly. My most recent subscription has been in effect since April 1999, nearly 11 years.

Yesterday, I received an URGENT renewal request from Holley Cavanna, EW's Consumer Marketing Director. There are ONLY 9 ISSUES LEFT! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

I've been receiving renewal mailings from the fine folks at EW since at least last October. I know this because I saved one of them because I thought I'd write a blog post about 'em someday.

And today's that day.

When I received the renewal request (also from Holley) in October, the one which informed me that I'd been a subscriber since 1999, I was struck by the language, "You're one of our most valued subscribers, and we want to keep it that way."

Really? That's nice. I like being valued.

EW, sport that it is, was offering me not one, not two, but three renewal options. Gosh!

I could ...:

- ... subscribe for one year (55 weekly issues – hey, there's simply too much entertainment in the world to fit into 52 weeks, OK? – plus 4 free issues) for $1.23 an issue. So 55 x $1.23 = $67.65.

- ... subscribe for two years (110 weekly issues plus 8 free issues) for $1.13 an issue. So 110 x $1.13 = $124.30.

OR

- ... subscribe for three years (165 weekly issues plus 12 free issues) for $1.03 an issue. So 165 x $1.03 = $169.95.

On Amazon, a one-year subscription to Entertainment Weekly is available for $20.

Yeah, twenty bucks.

Assuming that a one-year subscription is 55 issues, as EW spells out in its mailing, let's see ... wait a sec ... divide by three ... carry the one ... that comes out to 38 cents an issue. (Aside: Why did we get rid of the cent symbol on keyboards?)

Thirty-eight cents an issue. For one year. For someone who's never subscribed to EW before, perhaps. But who may have been hypnotized by the creepy Johnny Depp "Alice in Wonderland" cover and now feels compelled to subscribe.

Compare that to my $1.23 an issue, the best rate EW can offer to me, as one of its "most valued subscribers," someone who's subscribed continually since 1999, before Y2K wreaked absolutely no havoc, and Prince was still partying and may or may not have still been named Prince.

Now, I've worked in publishing. And I know full well that companies don't make their money on subscriptions. Hence why I also received, yesterday, an offer from the Chicago Tribune to receive the Sunday edition, delivered, for 99 cents. If I went to the store, I would pay, well, actually, I don't know what I would pay. What's the going rate for a Sunday Tribune? $2.00? $2.50? But with the offer I had in hand, I could get it delivered to my door for less than a buck.

It's not about subscription dollars. It's about the number of subscribers. The greater the number of subscribers, the more the publication can command for its advertising space. Advertising is from whence the real money comes. That's why you get "professional" rates offered to you no matter if the publication has anything to do with your profession. (But don't you feel special, knowing that you can receive a "professional" rate?) Yes, you too can receive a subscription to a magazine you don't want valued at $259 for only eight bucks!

Sometimes, publications will just send out issues. I once received a "complimentary" year of Reader's Digest. And that USA Today that's outside your hotel-room door when you travel (or if you live in a hotel)? USA Today gets to count all those copies in its circulation, which allows it to set higher rates for ads.

It ain't altruism, folks.

Anyhoo, back to EW.

I was feeling a bit miffed that I'm one of EW's "most valued subscribers," yet any schmo could subscribe for so much less than me. Yes, I understand that what's offered on Amazon is an introductory rate, designed to lure readers into the Entertainment Weekly lair, but still. Shouldn't my 11 years of loyalty count for something?

So I called EW customer service. And I took notes.

On October 16, 2009, I spoke to a man named Peter, who sounded Indian. So I question whether his name was really Peter. But I digress. Peter was a pleasant man who listed to my question and then told me that the rate on Amazon was an introductory rate.

Yes, I understood that, I told Peter. But I was wondering if EW was willing to extend a better rate to me, given that I'm such a loyal customer.

Peter, very nicely, mind you, told me "No." He did say something about 28 issues, but my notes aren't thorough. Perhaps he was willing to give me a rate on a 28-issue extension.

So, I asked Peter, why wouldn't I just let this subscription lapse and subscribe through Amazon for twenty bucks? He told me that I was welcome to do that, but that I might miss out on issues, between my current subscription lapsing and the new one taking effect.

Which is why I find it very handy that EW let me know in yesterday's mailing that I have ONLY 9 ISSUES LEFT!

Because on Amazon, it states that my first issue should arrive in 4-6 weeks. So I can time things pretty neatly. And I might have a week or two of overlap, but that would be OK.

And so, Entertainment Weekly and I will be calling it quits. After 11 years. But only symbolically. I'll re-up through Amazon. On principle.

I feel more valued already.

Little update: I just noticed that the reply envelope that came with my Entertainment Weekly renewal request is preprinted with the address to Travel + Leisure magazine.

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