Wandering through Walmart today – in my defense, my power was out and I needed to kill time someplace full of colorful distractions and air conditioning – I found the next step in subscription begging: Buy a T-shirt, get a subscription.
A table full of Rolling Stone licensed shirts, with images from classic RS covers featuring Jimi Hendrix, U2, Run-DMC and more, plus a few with generic guitar and amplifier designs, were on sale for $10. And each one came with a card for a 12-issue subscription, about a half a year’s worth. The magazines cost $4.50 apiece off the shelf, and here for the price of 2 of them you could get 12 plus a shirt! And the card was even postage-prepaid! How desperate do your circulation numbers have to be before you offer your print product as a sweetener to sell a shirt?
These came out last year on sale at Macy’s for $42, which is more understandable, but now they’re on a $10 table at Walmart (at least Macy’s hasn’t gone any lower than $14.99) and the subscription offer is still good.
Magazine subscriptions amaze me. I was a bit less impressed when I found out that you can get a year’s worth of the Stone – 26 issues – for 15 bucks online (no shirt). The reason why is obvious: most print products like magazines and newspapers make their money from advertising, and to get/keep those advertisers, they need to keep their circulation numbers nice and high. Actual subscription rates are proportionately a much smaller portion of their revenue. They just need you to help make a specific number nice and fat.
Which means if you need or want any magazine subscriptions at all, now’s the time. Those deals you see where you can get 2 years of mags for, like, thirty cents and an aluminum can are probably true. Want Popular Science? Don’t pay $47 to actually buy the things from a sweaty and possibly diseased retailer, send the company 10 bucks and allow them to mail them to you like a civilized person. Pay $192.50 for a year’s worth of Entertainment Weekly? Are you mad? Send them a twenty and make them beg to serve you (may include weekend breakfasts in bed from B-list celebrities, in selected areas). A year of Time would be $277.20 were you foolish/brain-damaged enough to actually pay money for the wretched things, but twenty bucks will get you a subscription, a private guided tour of the juiciest scandals in D.C. and the junior senator of your choice, to take home. Conde Nast will practically have sex with you if you’ll subscribe to anything, dammit, anything.
So I bought a shirt for my son. And I’ll send in the free subscription card. If I remember to.