Wired magazine
Creative Commons License photo credit: cubicgarden
In an interesting NY Times article (via Kottke) one can read how US magazines like The Economist are raising prices, counter-intuitively leading to higher sales and much higher revenue:

The Economist is leading the charge on expensive subscriptions, and its success is one reason publishers are rethinking their approaches. It is a news magazine with an extraordinarily high cover price -- raised to $6.99 late last year -- and subscription price, about $100 a year on average.

Wait a minute, 100 dollars for a yearly magazine subscription are expensive? Clearly, the US has different standards as far as that is concerned.

In comparison, German magazine subscriptions are almost ridiculously expensive. The weekly, renowned news magazine Der Spiegel weighs in at a whopping 182 Euros (that is, over 240 dollars) for a yearly subscription, followed by its biggest, more conservative "rival" Focus with 153,40 EUR (just over 200 Dollars). Similarly well-known magazine "Stern" is slightly cheaper at 145,60 EUR (193 USD), a year's worth of the (monthly) German Cosmopolitan is comparatively cheap at 29 Euros (about 38 USD), compared to 15 dollars in the US. Playboy, in turn, costs 58,80 EUR (78 USD) a year in Germany, while in the US it's available for just 12 dollars.

For each of the examples, comparative magazines are multiple times as expensive in Germany than in the US. Sadly, that results in the fact, that not too many people I know subscribe to magazines: You have to be a particular fan of a specific topic and a determined reader to spend several hundred dollars a year on a magazine subscription. Instead, if I lived in the US, I would surely subscribe to a handful of magazines to read whenever I feel like it, and not feel bad if I don't read every page every week.

It's clearly a question of value: I don't think that a magazine for under a dollar per issue is priced right. However, when I sometimes buy a German magazine for close to 5 Euros and I notice that -- just like US magazines -- easily half the pages contain ads, I wonder why the European ones have to be so much more expensive. Likewise, when I read that I can get an "amazing" 20 Eurocents or so off when I subscribe for a year, it's not much of an incentive for me to actually do so. Even if I regularly read this magazine, I'd be saving that money when I refrain from buying the one or two times that I don't have time or do not feel like reading.

In short, I feel like the solution should be somewhere in the middle: At a price that appropriately values the amount of work put into creating a magazine, while keeping magazines what they should be: a commodity, not a luxury.

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