An open letter to New Scientist’s subscription department

Dear New Scientist,

I received a letter from you today that opens as follows:

Dear Mr. Rubin,

I admire the boldness of your scientific experiment. You wanted to determine how long you could go without benefiting from the insight and intelligence that New Scientist had been delivering to your door in each weekly issue.

The letter goes on for six more paragraphs before concluding with the following post script:

If you weren’t conducting a “nobel experiment,” I’d be grateful to know the reason you’re not renewing your subscription. Please use the back of the renewal form to let us know where we went wrong, and return it in the pre-stamped envelope.

The letter is signed by your editor, Jeremy Webb.

Well, Mr. Webb, the fact is that none of the circumstances listed above apply. I still receive my issues of New Scientist every week, still read them with as much interest as always. The misunderstanding seems to be with how your various systems communicate with one another.

For a year or so now, each of your issues contains a full-page ad for getting New Scientist on the iPad via the Zinio app. Back on May 21, 2011, I finally decided to take you up on the idea of reading New Scientist on the iPad. I subscribed to it via Zinio. Of course, I still received the print issue until my print subscription ran out in October. Certainly you would agree that there is no value in my having both a print and digital subscription, when the digital subscription is perfect for my needs.

It surprises me that a science-minded organization would not have its data-ducks in a row and be able to match digital subscriptions to print subscribers so that when someone switched, you’d know that you hadn’t lost a subscriber, that they had merely changed subscription methods. I don’t think it falls under my responsibility to have to make you aware of this when I do change my subscription methods. I do so here only because I’ve received half a dozen letters asking me why I haven’t renewed. I have renewed, I’ve just renewed digitally.

What is most interesting is that in your letter, you don’t even seems to consider a switch to the digital version a possibility. Instead, you write:

I must assume that your experiment has been “pure”–that you have not been picking up copies of New Scientist at a newsstand.

I have not. I have been getting them through my Zinio subscription. I still read and enjoy each issue of New Scientist. Just not the paper edition.

I hope that future version of this letter will not be necessary because you’ll be able to match data from your Zinio subscriptions to your print subscription. But in the invent that you can’t figure out a way of doing that, at least consider the possibility that some of us like reading New Scientist entirely in digital format.


Jamie Todd Rubin


  1. Yep, same here.

    It’s Reed BUSINESS Publishing, not NS per se. My print sub was running out in Australia a few months ago – after six solid years so I reckon I´m a good customer – and they kept sending me renewal emails. I kept replying “Please advise how I can subscribe to the English version in Mexico” (where I now live) and received no reply.

    For a business, they´re a bit hopeless.


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