Why I’m not subscribing to New Scientist

Image: New Scientist - 21 May 2011
New Scientist is getting it wrong.

I’ve long been a great fan of New Scientist. It presents scientific information at just the right level for me, with enough depth to be interesting and yet shallow enough that I can, usually, understand what is being talked about. Yet when my electronic subscription via Zinio expired in October last year I did not renew; and every time I’ve gone to look at renewing I’ve been hit with the same problem – I simply don’t like being discriminated against so overtly for being Australian.

Subscribing electronically is significantly cheaper than subscribing in hardcopy; avoiding paying the ‘dead tree premium’ saves almost $200 on a local annual subscription. And New Scientist works well on the iPad: it looks like the hardcopy and is easily readable. So it would seem that a Zinio subscription is a no-brainer.

But Zinio keeps sending me marketing offers for New Scientist. When I follow the links for the offer I’m eventually told that the offer is not available in Australia, only in the US. Now that’s frustrating because I’ve been led down the garden path by the offer, I’ve wasted my time and I don’t get the purported offer. Bad marketing all-in-all. But worse is the fact that it pushes my face in the price of the US version of the publication. The US, UK and Australian versions are for all intents and purposes identical bar the advertising. And bar the pricing. If I subscribe to New Scientist via Zinio in the US it costs US$72 for an annual subscription; the same thing in Australia costs A$125.

At current exchange rates, the Australian price is almost double the US price. And that’s simply annoying. There might, possibly be some justification for a price differential in the hardcopy prices given economies of scale – but I’m at a loss to see a justification for a differential in the online pricing. Other than the fact they seem to be able to get away with it.

I had started to put together a lovely little spreadsheet demonstrating the differences, but then I found someone had beaten me to it. Core Economics did a nice article with handy comparison spreadsheet here. They compare the prices of quite a range of publications and find that most have the same price here as in the US, but…

Notable exceptions are New Scientist, The Economist and National Geographic, which cost 1.85 times, 2.23 times  and 2.36 times more in the Australian online store than in the US store, respectively.

As long as that goes on I’m going to vote with my money just to demonstrate to the publishers that in this day and age there’s no excuse for not looking at online distribution as a global market.

Update: I updated the figures here in 2016 with: Getting the best New Scientist deal in Australia.

24 thoughts on “Why I’m not subscribing to New Scientist

  • Pingback: Ebooks and the fallacy of local pricing for Australia » Geek In Sydney

  • September 18, 2012 at 10:04 am
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    Virtual magazines need virtual USA addresses to be delivered to, until this sort of practice is outlawed.

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  • March 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm
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    I realise this post was made over a year ago, but I wanted to let you know that you can trick Zinio into giving you a New Scientist sub for the american price. Log into the website and set it to the US store rather than the Australian store. Then update your address with a US one. Subscribe to New Scientist in the American store (your Oz credit card works fine). Switch your address and store country back to Australia and viola! 12 month New Scientist subscription without the “Australia Tax”.

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    • March 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm
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      Thanks for that it is interesting. Getting around it, doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong though. And if the publisher doesn’t even realise people are getting around it they’re not even getting a message that might make them change their approach. Ah, the dilemma – send a message or read the magazine…?

      Reply
  • April 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm
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    You’re missing the point. The cost of magazines is largely paid for by advertising revenue, not the revenue from readers purchasing the magazine. That is why magazines are so cheap is America – because advertisers pay a lot to access an enormous market. Australia is a tiny, remote, market and so the contribution your subscription makes to New Scientist’s revenue is far less than a US subscriber and less than a UK subscriber.

    The pricing is fair. You might not like it, but it’s rational.

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    • April 15, 2013 at 7:37 am
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      Chris,

      In many cases what you say would be true. However the New Scientist is not your average magazine and its revenues are largely subscription driven.

      Also, although this is an aside, it has one of the more international advertising markets available thanks to the combination of high-income and scientists it attracts both of which groups cross many boundaries which limit the advertising market for, say, a gossip magazine.

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      • April 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm
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        Not sure what New Scientist you read, but with all the jobs ads it has a higher ad content than most other content driven magazines and more in line with other trade magazines. It has around 35 editorial/content staff and about 30 staff selling advertising which indicates how important ads are.

        As for your aside, it’s a nice theory, but the print editions are different for UK, US and Australia indicating that their market is not international.

        Anyway, my point was that you said:”I’m at a loss to see a justification for a differential in the online pricing.” and my answer is that is because you ignored advertising and that the decision is not necessarily the ‘discrimination’ you assume it is.

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        • April 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm
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          A few years ago I spent some time with the New Scientist publishers and their business model. At least as things stood ten years ago subscriptions were their bread and butter – which is largely why Reed Elsevier loved them so. I’m sure the advertising revenue is not to be sneezed at but it certainly wasn’t their driver historically.

          A quick look at the Reed Elsevier site doesn’t shed much light on the current situation, although interestingly they cite the New Scientist audience in terms of a “weekly worldwide audience”.

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      • April 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm
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        By the way, I do agree about Zinio. They do the same to me and send promotions which just waste time because they aren’t actually available outside the US. They even break the law in the UK by advertising prices excluding VAT and then add VAT (GST to you) at checkout. They are also typically pretty expensive compare with other providers (at least in the UK)

        By the way, Andy’s trick assumes that you have a credit card (any one) registered to a US address. I do have so one of the few magazines I still read on Zinio is New Scientist because you can’t beat the $72 US price. However if you don’t then I doubt that just typing a US address in and trying to pay with a Aus registered credit card would work.

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        • April 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm
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          Actually Chris, I used my Australian credit card to get that Zinio sub.
          They require a US postal address true, but they don’t seem to check where the card itself was issued. This was the case as of May 2012, I don’t know if that has since changed – I guess I’ll find out when it’s time to renew.

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          • April 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm
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            Andy – Just to clarify. You mean that there was no link between the card and the address you entered ? I know the country of issuance of the card doesn’t matter but I always assumed that the card was validated against the address of the subscription..

          • April 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm
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            Thats right. I tried making up a nonsense US address first, which it rejected. Then I went to google maps, and picked a random, genuine street address in Portland, Oregon (as Oregon doesnt have a sales tax). That was accepted and my transaction went through.

  • October 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm
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    Just tried it. Still works. Even more important now since they are charging $199.99 for the “Australian Edition”!

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  • January 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm
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    Had the exact same issue, and expressed my consternation regarding the cost differential. In NZ the cost is $NZ250 for a 51 issue subscription. Zinio passed me onto New Scientist stating NS sets the price and geographical restrictions.

    NS’ response referred to printing and distribution costs being significantly higher. In my response I agreed, but pointed out the flaw in their argument as the publication is only electronically delivered. Given that the price premium is a whopping 160% I alluded to the practice of gouging as a possible conclusion.

    I have not renewed my subscription since October 2013 on this principle.

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  • January 17, 2014 at 5:21 pm
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    But be aware that it is easy to get around this. All you need to do is to give a US address in your Zinio profile. You don’t need a US credit card – at least you didn’t in October. US addresses are not hard to find!

    Some may find this dishonest, but the biggest dishonestly in this whole matter lies with New Scientist!

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  • March 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm
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    Another way of accessing Zinio content is through public libraries(in Australia at least) which allow members to access a wide range of magazines on-line. I have been reading New Scientist in this way for the past year. No need to subscribe at all!

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    • April 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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      Hi
      I’m located in Melbourne, Australia and I cant find any local libraries that allow me access to New Scientist. Please let me know throu which library it is your accessing the mag.

      Thanks a bunch

      Reply
  • April 30, 2014 at 11:01 pm
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    I also do not buy the whole advertising revenue argument – particularly as the original blog points out, the US adverts end up in front of Australian and UK subscriber anyway! And clearly many other magazines are not following this prejudicial approach. But surely as a company as a whole, the advertising revenue is applied to the business, not the location that the product is sold. If you draw a parallel with other products that rely heavily on advertising – say movies for example, the price of a cinema ticket in the US, UK and Australia is approximately equivalent adjusting for taxes even though the potential audience sizes may be different (and presumably the amount advertisers have to pay) because the movie studio still gets all the net revenue back for the cost of producing the film plus profits. So in a similar vein, advertising in a magazine (whether electronic or not) all contributes to the costs of producing the magazine which should then be sold on a consistent basis whichever country it ends in.
    I had the following reply from NS when I complained recently:
    “The price of our Digital subscriptions varies from region to region due to a variety of factors, including development costs, individual market conditions, advertising revenue and sales tax. When we determine the price of our subscriptions, we take these factors into account.”
    Er, no – development cost is the same – the magazine content is global in context; sales tax does not account for that big a chunk (and in the UK, magazines are VAT exempt), and as for advertising revenue – see above. However, ‘individual market conditions’ I read to mean ‘what we can get away with’, i.e. not enough people complain or are aware of the issue in the UK and Australia hence they charge over double the price.
    Screw you NS!

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  • October 22, 2014 at 1:48 pm
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    Currently priced at $90.92 AUD on Zinio. So somebody must have noticed!

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    • October 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm
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      Oops, when I went to complete my order it told me it wasn’t available. You may delete both these messages (or leave for embarrassing posterity!)

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      • October 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm
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        Just as an addendum, I left my address as it was, including postcode but changed my country and state to US, Alaska. It allowed me to subscribe for 90.92 AUD, so their checks on billing addresses must suck. Anyway I have a sub now. Hope this helps someone else!

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  • April 5, 2015 at 6:51 am
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    I’ve stopped paying magazine subscriptions a long time ago… I like to have complete control over the file, like I used to have with the paper manazines that I would catalogue the index and save clippings for future reference, like if I was researching a specific subject later. Zinio won’t even let me annotate the digital files (or extract my notes after I’ve read the magazine). Now I only download pirated copies from torrent websites like Kickass. I send to my ipad and read in an app called iannotate. The app then emails me everything I highlighted and my notes, so later it’s a lot easier to retrieve the main points for research.

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  • November 28, 2015 at 11:01 am
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    Another solution for those who in any event feel that NS has gone a bit too populist in its choice of topics and style: axe it, and substitute all or some of the following: American Scientist, Science, Scientific American, and IEEE Spectrum. I haven’t added it up, but these non-discriminatory subs are probably not much more than an Australian sub to NS, and provide more serious and wider coverage.

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  • December 23, 2015 at 11:49 pm
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    I just tried to cancel my online-only credit card payed New Scientist subscription. Apparently this is not possible to do online, but requires me to send a dead-tree letter to the subscription office. Am I missing something, or is this normal for online magazine subscriptions?

    Reply

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