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

(click image for a larger version)


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 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.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.