Last fall, I was fortunate enough to win a contest sponsored by Russia Direct, a great website for all things Russia-related (and it’s written in English!). The prize was a one-year subscription to Foreign Policy, a magazine I’ve read for years. FP recently put up a paywall, forcing readers to sign up for an account. Signing up is free, but the free version gives access to a limited number of articles per month. I was skeptical about this business model—it seemed like it would greatly reduce readership—but I continued to read, thanks to my subscription, which gives me unlimited access.
Over the past year, I occasionally have wondered what would happen when my subscription runs out. I hoped to win another free one from Russia Direct, but so far, no more contests have been offered. In a couple of months, I’ll have to start shelling out $4.99 a month if I want to continue reading FP.
The problem is, I don’t think I want to continue reading it. Once a fantastic magazine, I have recently found FP to have insipid, click-bait articles that offer little real analysis. There are so many other websites out there—Foreign Affairs, The American Interest, The National Interest—that offer the kind of insightful analysis on issues I’m interested in. It could be me, but it seems like FP is trying to cater to a bunch of dilettantes who don’t really know what they’re interested in. I question this strategy, both because catering to dilettantes isn’t the most sound business idea, and because it alienates truly interested readers like me.
And then there’s the website design. Web design is one of those things you don’t notice unless it’s really, really bad and trust me, FP’s new design (I think they rolled it out in 2013, but I could be wrong) is really, really terrible. Not only is it ugly and unintuitive to navigate, it crashes my browser on my iPad about half the time (and freezes my desktop browser on occasion). Simply put, navigating through this insipid design is nothing short of torture sometimes. Even if I liked the content FP published, I still would despise this design.
Once my account is downgraded to the free version, I will be able to read eight articles a month, so not renewing my subscription doesn’t mean I will never, ever read FP again. I’ll try the occasional Russia-related article. I’ll just read the magazine a lot less often. Unless there is a radical editorial policy change at FP, I will be happier spending my valuable reading time elsewhere, where more rigorous analysis is offered.