Guess What I Got in the Mail Yesterday?

Sports Illustrated Cover

The July 12, 2010 Sports Illustrated delivered to my mail box despite my label clearly depicting that my subscription ran out in May

My Sports Illustrated. They’ve sent it every week since I canceled a few months ago.

At the time I wrote:

After I picked it up and started flipping through, I began to wonder: would they be better off if they just kept sending me the magazine anyway? It’s no secret that the subscription fees barely cover the cost of printing. The real money is in the ads, and for ads you need eyeballs. Declining subscribers = declining ad revenue.

A few people over on the Brazen Careerist commented that it wasn’t a good idea:

I think that would border on spam/junk mail. If I unsubscribe from a magazine, it generally means I don’t want it. If they keep sending it, it’s another thing I have clogging up my mail box and another thing I now need to carry off to the recycling bin.

And:

No…. save a tree and go after someone who is interested in the magazine!

And:

Part of the value of the magazine is that is requires a subscription – as opposed to a freebie that everyone gets in the mail and no one reads – this value is what translates into higher dollar ad rates.

Maybe so, but they’re still sending it, and I’m still reading it. Just because I didn’t want to fork over $99.99, doesn’t mean that if you give me it each week that I still won’t read it.

Anthony sort of predicted this with his comment on my original post:

Magazines shank advertisers and still categorize you as a paying customer, since the term is so malleable. For example, as far as you knew, you were paying $100/yr. But as far as SI was concerned, they could have been running their accounting numbers such that the $100 covered 15 months, and your renewal at month 12 was simply an advanced payment on their books. This specific example is purely speculation, but from everything I’ve ever read on the subject, magazines dupe advertisers in one way or another, and I imagine some shady practices must come into play.

Virtually every magazine does this. I typically pay for 1-2 years of a subscription to almost every magazine I get, and then end up getting another 1-2 years for free without ever re-subscribing. I’m still getting a couple subscriptions I haven’t paid for in 3 years – no joke. And the irony is that if they called my bluff, I’d probably pay them to send me more. But why pay when they’re offering it up for free?

It will be interesting to see how long it keeps coming.

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