The Problem with the Scientific American Newsstand Policy

No one pays full price for trade publication subscriptions anymore. And if they do, they haven't shopped around. Most of my magazine subscriptions are now on the iPad. When publishers create an iPad app, they proudly announced it and tell current subscribers how to access the bits.

I received such a note from Scientific American, and saw it again in the latest issue. I have been a subscriber on-and-off for many years. I downloaded the app. When I entered my account, my name and the verification scribbles, I was told I had to call customer service. I tried several more times, including using the full address approach. Still the same message: call customer service.

I did a bit of investigation on the App store. I found negative comments on the App because it was only available to those who paid full price for the subscription. 

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I could not believe that. I just subscribed to Inc. for $10 for 30 issues, to Money for $10 a year. Both with iPad access. No questions. No hassle. (I now routinely call publications and challenge them to meet the lowest price I find online, and all of the have either met the price or offered an even lower price.)

After calling customer service to confirm this, I canceled my subscription and asked for the remainder of the issues to be refunded. Scientific American lost a long time subscriber over about $9 in revenue they collected nearly a year ago. This is bad policy.  If they wanted to convert me to digital only, I would have foregone the print, but that wasn't an option.

Scientific American needs to revisit their pricing and service model or I'm betting I won't be the last loyal subscriber to cancel my subscription. I will now place my remaining issues in protective covers and sit them next to my tektites, trilobites, original iPod, Roman oil lamp, dinosaur phalanges and other artifacts as items to study from a bygone era.


Note to all print publications: Going all digital for the same price needs to be the next move. I would gladly save a few trees as I now routinely recycle many of my print editions upon arrival.

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Daniel W. Rasmus is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. Rasmus is the author of Listening to the Future and Management by Design. Rasmus teaches at Bellevue College where he teaches Social Media and Personal Branding. He is also the Chief Knowledge Officer with the Virtual World Society.