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Fine Cooking online subscription- ridiculous!!

Okay, I know that Cook's Illustrated does it too, but I just find it utterly ridiculous! If you are a subscriber to the print format, you should be an automatic subscriber to the online format! I just received my e-mail this week from Fine Cooking telling me that I could start my free 14-day trial for the online information, and then from there, I can pay $2.95 a month or $9.95 a year... that's in addition to the $29.95 a year for the print version. I'm ticked! I wrote them an e-mail this morning telling them how I felt. I've decided to give it a little bit of time, but I told them if things didn't change (which they probably won't) that they could look forward to my cancellation. It's my favorite and I'm sad, but their subscription rate is already higher than most anyway. I have happily overlooked that for years because I love it so much, but $40 a year is ridiculous! I hope other people write to them too.

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  1. I agree...subscribers to print versions should get free access to all online content & features, espec. when both print and online versions carry advertising (I don't think Cook's does, does it?). To run advertising in both versions, AND try to charge subscribers for complete online access, smacks of greed -- not to mention business cluelessness; has Fine Cooking not visited Epicurious? I too will complain to Fine Cooking, for whatever it might be worth.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dkelley

      Ooh... good point! I didn't even think to mention the advertising- dang it! Cook's does not do advertising, you're right.

      1. re: Katie Nell

        Ok, I just wrote Fine Cooking and if I get in a particularly nasty mood I might write some of FC site's advertisers, pointing out that FC's charging for full access may cause people to simply skip that site, i.e., to not have the opportunity to view the advertisers' ads there. Occurs to me I'm spending far too much energy on this and probably need to go cook something...!

    2. I had a Cook's Illustrated subscription. When I tried to get onto the website and realized I would have to pay I emailed them about it. the explanation was that the website cost money to run aside from the magazine. I never renewed my subscription.

      1. I'm pretty miffed about this issue, too. They ought to realize that there are plenty of sites for us to choose from, and we don't have to put up with their greed. The explanation that the site costs them in addition to the magazine is BS. I'd bet that the costs are taken care of by advertising at the website, if not wholly, then a large portion.

        1. Haven't ever taken Fine Cooking, nor been to their website until today. Looks like they have google ads on it.

          Cooks Illustrated doesn't have any advertising in their magazine nor on their website save for ads for their own other products (ie, ads for the magazine and their books on the website). It's also clear that running a website like theirs with lots of content, video etc costs money. It certainly costs more money than just publishing a magazine and vice versa. The website also has content that doesn't appear in the magazine.

          I expect they've made the decision to charge for them separately because while there are people who will buy both and would pay a higher price for both, there are also likely people who would not pay what they have determined they need to charge for both a magazine and website access but will by one or the other. If enough people feel as those on this thread have stated so far, then I'm sure both will respond to the market.

          1. I give Cook's Illustrated (and Consumer Reports) some leeway here. Since neither the magazine nor the website carries any outside advertising, charging for web access is not unreasonable. CI also offers quite a bit of current content, and some archived content, for free. I do believe that the CI print subscription could include web access, but free website access without some kind of paid subscription wouldn't work.

            (I'm more annoyed at CI's extortionate rates for both newsstand copies and subscriptions in Canada, especially with the Canadian dollar now at about $1.07 US.)

            Fine Cooking has no excuse - that's just a cash grab.

            3 Replies
            1. re: embee

              A cash grab? It's $10/year! They offer a service, you have the option to purchase it or not. I don't see what the big deal is here. Fine Cooking is not wholly ad-free, but it is markedly less ad-heavy than Gourmet, Bon Appetit and similar "lifestyle" rags with their beautiful-people-features. Fine Cooking is all about the food. I have no knowlegde of their financials but I'd be very surprised if this publication is rolling in dough.

              1. re: Pincho

                I don't feel emotional about this, but it is my opinion. Subscribers should not be asked to pay extra for access to an ad supported website. Indeed, they should probably also have the option of whether to see the ads or not.

                I am willing to pay for the two sites I mentioned (CI and CU) because neither the publications nor the websites are supported by outside advertising. I think Fine Cooking (which, like Saveur, has slipped in recent years) should offer its website free to subscribers. I stopped reading Fine Cooking some time ago and I do not subscribe to it.

                I no longer read Bon Appetit either. Although I feel Ruth Reichl is a really good editor, I expect to abandon Gourmet also, unless it changes direction soon. But to the best of my knowledge, virtually all recipes published in Bon Appetit and Gourmet are archived and available, free, on Epicurious, complete with public reviews of the recipes. I've no problem with ads on this very useful, and FREE, site.

                I've been using the internet for an unusually long time, dating back to when anyone posting even remotely commercial content would be flamed into oblivion. The whole concept of selling via the net, which I find very useful myself, was once deemed akin to the work of Satan.

                But paid content is more complex, both psychologically and economically. A universally accepted, workable model for providing paid internet content does not yet exist. iTunes has received commercial acceptance, but many younger internet users seem to have huge issues about paying for content - any content. Thus the whole free music downloading phenomenon. (I don't steal music, but I won't use iTunes because I resent Apple's attempts to override the entire concept of fair use.)

                On the other side of the coin, publishers who want to charge for content now try to get the writers of that content to waive any right to be paid for it. They will eventually learn that they can't have it both ways.

                Even the New York Times, who assumed they could charge readers for web content, retreated a short time ago.

                In summation, the Fine Cooking comment that started this topic is just a tiny sliver of a really complex, even cataclysmic, change in our society's expectations. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

                1. re: embee

                  Thanks for this thoughtful reply. I think you sum up the issues well.

                  There will always be those who believe that anything on which one can make a profit is fair game, and then there are those of us who believe otherwise. It's not really the $10 a year that's at issue as much as the larger picture. Our approach to such issues now will determine the course of the future world we live in, politically, financially, culturally, etc. There is really no end to what people will be willing to pay for as long as they are convinced it's not an ethical issue and swayed to believe "Gosh, it's only ten dollars..."

            2. Wine Spectator does the same thing. I did suck it up for one year simply because the main thing you can't get to are past ratings on wines. But then I stopped because I was somewhat miffed about the fact that I was just being charged for the fact that I didn't feel like leafing through the 800 back-issues of Wine Spectator for a quick blurb on a wine. Luckily, more on-line wine distributors are printing the WS (and other magazine) blurbs so when you're buying you don't have to remember whether this was the iffy year or the stellar year (damn Pinot Noir for being so persnickity!).

              I once had to speak to a representative on the phone regarding the on-line subscription and asked why a print subscriber would have to pay for the on-line version since so many other magazines offered full access to subscribers (and limited access to non-subscribers). He simply said that they were different entities and that that on-line version did offer additional articles. Being that the twice-monthly magazine already offered me enough articles to read, I didn't see the "exclusive" on-line content as any great bonus.

              1. This was their response to my e-mail:

                "Thank you for your comments regarding our latest version of FineCooking.com. I understand your concern about the online product, but do want to clarify that you are not required to become a paying memb er to access hundreds of recipes and articles online. These are available to you, along with other features, at no extra cost.

                Our website complements our magazine. You will find that there are distinct qualities that make each unique. Our membership version of FineCooking.com includes the complete archive of thousands of recipes and our best cooking articles since issue one. There are also many other features on the website, such as Create Your Own Recipe, Ask the Experts, and a customizable recipe organizer. We offer this and more to our magazine subscribers for an introductory price of $9.95/year. This is a significant value since you get both the magazine and the website. We realize there are some users who want only an online membership, and there are some readers who may want only the magazine. Many, however, enjoy a complete Fine Cooking experience by subscribing to both. Our current pricing structure gives people the choice.

                So while it is unlikely that we'll "change our mind" about the process in the very near future, we do hope that we might be able to change yours. Please take a look at the site and see what is available to you at no extra cost. And if you're so inclined, take advantage of our risk-free 14 day trial offer to see what else finecooking.com has to offer."

                Seems like they don't care what I do, so I will most likely cancel.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Katie Nell

                  It seems to me that they gave a completely reasonable answer to your question. The product is simply priced beyond what you're willing to spend on it. There's different content, there are different costs associated with providing the different formats and different content and there are people who want only one product or the other so they price it to let people choose. I don't see how they're doing anything wrong or ridiculous.

                  1. re: Katie Nell

                    I'm not sure what your expectation was. It must be really difficult to respond to these kinds of letters -- it seems a very reasonable position to me, and you're still going to cancel despite the fact that you "love it so much"... over an optional charge (less than a dollar a month) for an additional service beyond your subscription, which you are in no way obligated to pay? Needless ot say it's your decision but I find the logic pretty confusing.

                    1. re: Pincho

                      My issue is that I use the website a lot in conjunction with the magazine. A while back, I had e-mailed them and said wouldn't it be great, if when I forgot my magazine while I was at work, that I could get on the website and look up the recipes for a grocery list on my way home from work. So, now I have to pay extra to get that function? I just don't think it's fair, and obviously a lot of people here agree with me as well.

                  2. I actually canceled my CI subscription but kept the web-only subscription. It's cheaper than the magazine, has all the same recipes, equipment tests, etc, and it's searchable.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Buckethead

                      I've been considering this, because I currently am collecting the hardbound yearly editions. I don't particularly want to buy their index to the hardbound, since it seems to me they should be including that, say every ten years if they want people to continue collecting. The hardbound are not well made either. They give you a 30 day period to inspect, but if you happen to miss a problem, like I did one year, you end up with a few poorly cut pages. One of the books is falling apart at the spine, and it's not even one of the oldest ones. I'm not a happy camper, but I feel sort of locked in to collecting at this point. Bleh, not a good feeling.