Andy Rooney Moment

by Kieran Healy on March 21, 2006

In this day and age, is there any good reason at all why, upon subscribing to a magazine, you should have to wait six to eight weeks for delivery of your first issue?



joel turnipseed 03.21.06 at 7:29 pm

If it’s a weekly: no. But if it’s a little shop like N+1 or Virginia Quarterly Review… well, still: no. Not, at least, if your subscription starts with the most previous issue (else, w/N+1, you might be in for a long wait).


Eszter 03.21.06 at 7:40 pm

NO! Better yet, any reason why you should have to wait 3-4 weeks to be unsubscribed from an email newsletter???


Johan 03.21.06 at 7:45 pm

To rephrase comment #1, in the case of N+1, couldn’t you just start off right away with N? har, har.


joel turnipseed 03.21.06 at 8:04 pm

Nothing like a little second-hand l’esprit d’escalier…


Raw Data 03.21.06 at 8:04 pm

There may bot be “good” reasons but there are explanations.

It basically comes down to how the magazine industry is organized.

I’ve read the explanations and while they sound lame, they are like many social institutions, such as university enure, very slow to change.


Delicious Pundit 03.21.06 at 8:39 pm

And turn signals! Why have people forgotten how to use them?


jamesonandwater 03.21.06 at 9:15 pm

I called a magazine I subscribed to a while back in order to change my delivery address. They told me they couldn’t do it for a few weeks because “the labels are already printed.”


FMguru 03.21.06 at 11:07 pm

I always figured it had to do with massaging circulation numbers. I’ll bet you’re booked as a subscriber (and, thus, an asset to be sold to advertisers) the moment they get your subscription form, check, or credit-card number, and I’ll bet they don’t remove you from the rolls until 30 days after your last issue ships. See how they just stretched a 12-month subscription into a 15-month one? That’s probably good for a couple percentage points directly to the bottom line, right there.


Matt 03.21.06 at 11:12 pm

As usual, Joel doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. And n+1 is well worth waiting for.


abb1 03.22.06 at 6:00 am

In this day and age, why would you need a paper magazine?


Tom Hurka 03.22.06 at 6:47 am

Happened to me too. I subscribed before Christmas, was immediately sent the December issue, and when I asked why I never got the January/February was told it took six weeks or something to get the subscription going, so I would start with the March. But how can they be able to send the December but not the January/February?


Barry 03.22.06 at 8:23 am

tom, probably because they shipped you a copy which would have gone to a subscriber, except that they had unsubscribed. That’d be a nice money saver.


Ben Hyde 03.22.06 at 9:40 am

A smile sweeps across the entire magazine factory floor each time the bell announcing a new subscriber rings. The ink and paper order for next quarter is immediately adjusted. In the writer’s pool you will hear a sudden sharpening of pencils as they gladly prepare to met the hightened demands of their now expanded audience. Phones are heard being lifted from their cradles as the advertising sales staff reachs out inform their clients of the great good news. The shop steward of the typesetters union orders more lead for the linotype. The editors tune their models of the readership. The entire staff press their shoulders to their work like tugs boats guiding a great ocen liner into port the vast enterprise into a new course. But, to answer your question let me quote the great cinematographer Orson Wells “No wine before it’s time.”


anna 03.22.06 at 9:56 am

At least one definition of a successful blog post has got to be when the comments are equal to or surpass the original. Excellent job, all.


joel turnipseed 03.22.06 at 11:21 am

Hmmm, Matt– must have pissed in your oatmeal somewhere. Generally speaking, I try to know what I’m talking about (with exception of Derrida,, who infuriate me into a state of inarticulate frustration that comes out as benighted rant). In the meantime, not sure that we disagree here: I subscribe to both N+1 and VQR and they’re both superb. But two months is definitely too long to wait for mere technical reasons.


JJ 03.22.06 at 2:19 pm

In this day and age, why would you need a paper magazine?

a. Because you don’t have internet access in your bathroom.

b. Because you wouldn’t want to line the birdcage with your computer.
c. Because the guests you’re trying to impress can’t see your online subscription to [magazine name].



American in London 03.22.06 at 2:32 pm

JJ: Have you got a printer?


bigd504 03.22.06 at 11:29 pm

At least you get magazines & journals sent to you-down here in New Orleans, I have received 3 magazine deliveries since the levees breeched after Katrina. The USPS embargoed delivery of all magazines (& catalogs) due to a lack of mail handlers.


Sumana 03.23.06 at 8:43 am

When I was at, doing customer service for Salon Premium, I gave thanks every day that we were online only. People requested their free print mag benefits from us — Wired, US News & World Report (no longer a benefit), Rolling Stone, etc., and then we sent batches of names and mailing addresses to the magazine fulfillment companies. And about every fifth complaint I dealt with had to do with the magazine benefits.

Almost no magazines that I dealt with handled their own fulfillment; the Canadian magazine Geist was a welcome exception, and handled its own subscriber rolls. We talked to one person at The New Yorker or Men’s Health Best Life, etc. to set up the deal and then pushed string at fulfillment houses to get subscribers’ names added, addresses changed, records removed, etc.

Every fulfillment house demands batches in a different arcane format. Even two different Conde Nast publications might have different format requirements for the batches. When we set up a new magazine benefit, it would take hours and hours to get to the right person at the fulfillment house who actually knew the format, ad then for us to iterate through samples. “No, that’s not right, it has to have this code that I never told you about in the first two characters of every entry.”

Palm Coast, which handles fulfillment for US News, wouldn’t let its own customer service reps take our customers’ address changes and cancellations. We had to send them in the batches.

Anyway. My guess: The mail-processing or order-processing facility takes your order and sends updates to the fulfillment house every so often, and then the fulfillment house makes its roll changes every so often, and the labels for this month’s issue and the next got printed in one batch to save time, so you have to wait eons.

After all! Who cares how long it takes to get to you! No matter what day that first copy of the Saturday Evening Post gets to you, you’ll turn off the phonograph, have a little party, invite over the neighbors from the next farm, and read it aloud to each other! Over and over again!


Sumana 03.23.06 at 8:45 am

Also: I used to watch Andy Rooney every week. My parents would call me downstairs when there were 10 minutes left in 60 Minutes so I could watch Andy Rooney. I actually read two of his books, and they influence my column-writing and stand-up comedy styles to this day.


Sumana 03.23.06 at 8:53 am

bigd504: I was still working at Salon just after Katrina. Every Salon Premium member whose billing address was in the Katrina-affected ZIP codes got extra weeks (or months, I don’t remember) on their memberships. The tiny bit I could do.


Ophelia Benson 03.23.06 at 2:17 pm

Because it’s a quarterly magazine?


Alexander Wolfe 03.23.06 at 10:35 pm

Intriguing question. Perhaps someone at “The Atlantic Monthly” could answer it for me, as I subscribed to them before the March issue came out.

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