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The Spectator: the case for subscribing

18 January 2013

5:04 PM

18 January 2013

5:04 PM

For three months now, we have been operating without a paywall throughout the website. It has, as we had hoped, brought thousands more people to The Spectator who have discovered the most entertaining and best-written magazine in the English language.

From now, we’re offering a limited number of free magazine pieces per month and asking those who want more to join us and subscribe – from £1 a week. We’re pretty confident that, if you read five of our pieces, you’ll be hooked. Our blogs will remain free, and I know not all CoffeeHousers are fans of the concept of paid content but it’s working — for us at least. Thanks to a new generation of digital subscribers, we’re now within touching distance of our all-time high. So why would you want to subscribe to a magazine in this day and age? Here’s my case for the Spectator:

In his New York Times column, Ross Douthat suggested that readers drop The Economist and subscribe to The Spectator instead. Here’s his rationale for subscribing, not just picking and choosing the pieces that appeal:

‘I’m using the word “subscription” advisedly: it may sound fusty in the age of blogs and tweets and online hopscotching, but reading the entirety of a magazine, whether in print or on your tablet, is a better way to reckon with the ideas that its contributors espouse than just reading the most-read or most-e-mailed articles on its Web site, or the occasional inflammatory column that all your ideological compatriots happen to be attacking.’

Now, if you only care about politics there’s not much point to buying The Spectator. We do politics, and thanks to James Forsyth we do it better than anyone else. But out of the 50 or so pieces we run, about half a dozen will be about politics. We don’t have a party line: our commitment is to independence of thought and elegance of expression. There is no ‘weak’ section in the magazine. If a piece is dull, we won’t run it. So what do you get for the price of a subscription?

  • Deja lu. This comes free with every subscription: the feeling you get when you open a newspaper, see a headline and know all about the story already because you’ve read it in the Spectator the week before. For example: soon, Fleet Street will finally get hold of the contents of David Cameron’s speech. Our readers will recall reading it in James Forsyth’s cover story two weeks ago.
  • Columnists of the outstanding calibre of Charles Moore, Matthew Parris, Rod Liddle, Hugo Rifkind, Melissa Kite, Alexander Chancellor, Tanya Gold, Bruce Anderson, Toby Young, Taki and James Delingpole, to name but a few. Collectively, they sum up our motto: ‘don’t think alike’.
  • Cartoons. at least a dozen of them, the best in Britain, edited by Fleet Street legend Michael Heath. The cartoons are worth the cover price alone.
  • Ideas. We do not anxiously strive to be modern: our values are timeless. But, we were the first to identify and name the ‘yuppy’, to air Thomas Szasz’s theory that madness is only a social construct as well as expose Peter Singer’s pernicious ideas about animal rights.
  • Books coverage. The best in the land. We regularly have 7-9 pages of books, at a time when everyone else is dumbing down and cutting back. Often the reviewer is more famous than the author. At a time when crony reviewing is on the rise – giving someone a good review because they’re a friend or contributor — our reviewers only ever call it as they see it. Mark Amory, our literary editor, perhaps causes me more trouble than anyone else on the magazine. He is very good at controlled explosions, and you browse his section knowing that anything could happen when you turn the page. People whose books are trashed, however gently, can take it personally – assuming that an editor can soften a harsh review. We don’t do that here.
  • Arts coverage – The best in the land. It’s not uncommon for art galleries to be full of people clutching The Spectator, turning up to whatever Andrew Lambirth recommends. Deborah Ross’s inimitable film reviews have a cult following and you won’t find better opera, dance, radio or TV reviews. Plus assorted gems like Damian Thompson’s piece on Spotify’s classical music.
  • The ‘Life’ section. Taki, Jeremy Clarke, Melissa Kite, Alexander Chancellor – the columns they write each week are without any direct equivalent. More readers probably turn to this section first than any other. I won’t attempt to describe them, but click on their names for a idea.
  • You can double the IQ of your iPad/iPhone with our new App. Which comes free with the £1/week introductory deal, will download the entire edition for you to read when you find yourself with some free time. A subscription brings with it full digital access. Cartoons and all.

To get all this for our introductory price — a paltry outlay of £1 a week – click here. You’ll be annoyed at some of the pieces, but for 185 years we have been delighting, informing, entertaining and infuriating our subscribers. In short, Coffee House is fun. But life is too short not to read The Spectator. Do join us.

PS And don’t take my word for it. Here’s some Spectator subscribers on Twitter on why they like it:-



Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

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