★ On Magazine Subscriptions

This week, I subscribed to a magazine for the first time in five years. The magazine was National Review, the de facto publication for thoughtful conservatism and a shining beacon of light on the right for more than sixty years. Why am I posting about it? Because I didn't subscribe to the print edition. I subscribed on my iPad. National Review made the bold decision to embrace Apple's subscription service and offer its product in on a new media platform. It's not a completely independent edition of the venerable publication - in fact, it's simply a high-quality PDF of the printed version - but it is in no way dependent on outdated models of publishing. Unlike The New York Times, let's say, which has built its cost structure to incentivize users to subscribe to its print edition ($8.75 a week for unlimited digital subscribers vs. $7.40 a week for home delivered print AND unlimited digital) , National Review has embraced the benefits of digital publishing and distribution, and is giving its readers every reason to do the same. A one-year digital subscription costs $19.99, as opposed to a $29.50 print subscription, or nearly $120 for twenty-four individually purchased issues. (For comparison, NYT digital costs $1.25 per digital edition, while NR costs 83¢. NYT with print costs $1.05 per issue. Not trying to compare NYT and NR by content, but rather the ways they are using pricing to incentivize digital subscriber behavior.)  Even better, by using Apple's subscription service, National Review allowed me to opt out of sharing my personal data. That means that I won't be sold as a product to any cause that wants to send me their mail (or more accurately, send my trashcan their mail). That's something that would be worth paying more for - and I'm paying less for it.

This is my first experience with Apple's subscription system. It took less than a minute to do. I don't know if National Review is going to make enough through this process to justify shifting more of its resources to digital, but if there are more users like me out there to whom the ease of the process and the lowered price makes a difference, then the publisher has a good chance of making up in volume what it gave up in price. And that's a very good thing for National Review, for Apple, for the future of publishing, and for users like me.