Friday, January 1, 2010

The sad state of magazines

I recently came across an interesting piece on The Huffington Post about the continuing decline of magazines, based on statistics issued by Mediafinder.com. In North America in 2009, 275 new magazines launched and 428 folded. Those numbers are pretty alarming, but keep in mind that they do include regional publications.
Most notable of the international magazines in that group was Gourmet, which had been around since 1941 and had a circulation of 977,000. Apparently, that number wasn't enough to cut it. The one publication on the list which really caught my eye was Blender, a favourite of mine. It covered many kinds of music and was an entertaining read, even if they did succumb to "list-itis" more than I'd like. The definition of list-itis is: incessant publication of articles citing "the best" movies/music/whatever of a particular category, which is an exercise in meaninglessness, as taste is a subjective thing. This affliction also plagues my two other regular reads, Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly.
Blender packed it up back in March, which I hadn't even noticed as I gave up on the magazine after a comically frustrating experience in 2007 trying to order a subscription from them. Here's how it went:
- attempted to order the subscription through their website, but couldn't complete the order because there was no option on the page to input which province I was from (even though one of the dropdown menus where you were asked to input which country you were in listed Canada).
- I sent the magazine an email to sort out the problem and received a reply telling me to call their subscription department (on my own dime as they didn't have a toll free number).
- on the phone, I tell the customer service rep that I want to place an order. I quote the price listed on one of the magazine's pull-out subscription cards, which was a great deal at $28 (Canadian) for 36 issues. The rep tells me she's having problems inputting the order for a Canadian address at the quoted price. She asks me for the eight digit price code listed on the card, but she still can't get it to work. I'm told to just mail the card in via snail mail.
- about a month after mailing the card I receive my first issue, followed shortly by a mailed invoice requesting $48 (Canadian) for the 36 issues. Confused, I email them to explain they made a mistake and even after spelling out the whole scenario to them, they continue to send invoices for the higher amount. They stop mailing the magazine after two issues have been sent. A few more emails are sent stating that even after all this hassle I still want the subscription, but only at the original price. They send me another invoice for $48, at which point I tell them to cancel the subscription.
It's almost two years later and I'm still amazed at the incompetence from Blender, which, in light of the financial hardships they were assumedly struggling with even then, makes it all that much more shameful. Obviously, one cancelled subscription doesn't make or break a magazine, but you'd think they'd have been bending over backwards to keep their few subscribers happy.

2 comments:

  1. I was surprised to see I.D. fold earlier in the year after being around for so long. There are rumours of Apple releasing a tablet computer in a few weeks that might help to revive the magazine industry. I wouldn't hold your breath but I think we'll see a lot more magazines bite the bullet next year as well.

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  2. Yeah, I've been hearing about this tablet and I read your blog post. I look at reading magazines on this the same way I look at reading books on a Kindle - not really interested. Of course, I've never actually used a Kindle so I'm just assuming I won't like it.

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