The Economist Made Me an Offer I Can’t Understand

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Tucked inside this morning’s Wall Street Journal was an offer for a very deep discount on a subscription to The Economist.  Unfortunately, The Economist made me an offer I couldn’t understand.  Here’s the flyer (with my annotations):

The Economist subscription offer

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The information in the top right corner seems to say my discounted subscription rate is $15 for 12 weeks (about $5 per month). That’s quite a deal compared to the regular price of $334.97. (Aside: does The Economist really charge over $1,000 for a one-year subscription? Sounds high to me.)

However, the fine print in the lower right panel says $15 per month.  That’s about $45 for 12 weeks, a far cry from $15.

Here are my guesses.  First, the initial $15 buys 12 weeks.  After that the price is $15 per month.  The $334.97 for 12 weeks is the total of all the items in the list (including $108 for “The Economist in Audio,” are they kidding?).  And do they really charge $83.88 for 12-week access to their content via mobile apps?  Seems to me it would be cheaper just to use the mobile browser and access economist.com for “only” $23.29.

But what’s really amazing is that this “deal” isn’t a deal.  Here are the regular subscription rates:

The Economist's regular rates

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Let’s see.  $1.25 per week for 12 weeks is exactly $15!  In other words you can get the same rate through The Economist website as their “special offer.”  But the website is even better because you can get an annual subscription for $160, about $3.08 per week or $12.31 for four weeks. And if you’re a student, that one-year subscription is a mere $96.  Register for a class at a local cheap community college and save $64!

The best I can say about this is that the pricing is confusing and appears irrational. If The Economist really wants my business, they’ll have to make me an offer I can understand.