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Behavioral Biases Meet the Market: The Case of Magazine Subscription Prices


  • Oster Sharon M.

    () (Yale University)

  • Scott Morton Fiona M.

    () (Yale University)


Using data from American magazines, we explore the relationship between newsstand and subscription prices and magazine characteristics. In particular, we distinguish between magazines that provide benefits in the future (investment magazines) versus those that are simply fun to read now (leisure magazines). A consumer with a present bias at the newsstand discounts the future payoff of the investment good but fully values the leisure good. This difference does not exist for subscriptions. Thus, the ratio of the subscription to newsstand willingness to pay for a magazine should differ between investment and leisure goods. We find that for magazines whose payoff is in the future, subscriptions are relatively more costly, ceteris paribus. This finding suggests that publishers reflect the present bias preferences of consumers in their price setting behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Oster Sharon M. & Scott Morton Fiona M., 2005. "Behavioral Biases Meet the Market: The Case of Magazine Subscription Prices," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-32, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:advances.5:y:2005:i:1:n:1

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2010. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 193-210, January.
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:9:p:1543-:d:110258 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Sumit Agarwal & John C Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2008. "Learning in the Credit Card Market," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002028, David K. Levine.
    4. Shy, Oz, 2008. "Measuring the cost of making payment decisions," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2411-2416, December.
    5. Sumit Agarwal & John C Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2007. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001752, UCLA Department of Economics.
    6. Campbell, James D., 2015. "Ownership and pricing of information: A model and application to open access," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 29-42.
    7. Ulrike Malmendier & Young Han Lee, 2011. "The Bidder's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 749-787, April.
    8. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    9. Michael D. Grubb, 2009. "Selling to Overconfident Consumers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1770-1807, December.
    10. Katherine Milkman & Todd Rogers & Max Bazerman, 2010. "I’ll have the ice cream soon and the vegetables later: A study of online grocery purchases and order lead time," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 17-35, March.
    11. Drago, Francesco & Kadar, Dora, 2006. "Rebate or Bait? A Model of Regret and Time Inconsistency in Consumer Behaviour," CEPR Discussion Papers 5757, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Katherine L. Milkman & Todd Rogers & Max H. Bazerman, 2009. "Highbrow Films Gather Dust: Time-Inconsistent Preferences and Online DVD Rentals," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(6), pages 1047-1059, June.
    13. Simon, Daniel H. & Kadiyali, Vrinda, 2007. "The effect of a magazine's free digital content on its print circulation: Cannibalization or complementarity?," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 344-361, October.
    14. Milkman, Katherine L., 2012. "Unsure what the future will bring? You may overindulge: Uncertainty increases the appeal of wants over shoulds," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 119(2), pages 163-176.
    15. Katherine L. Milkman & Todd Rogers & Max H. Bazerman, 2007. "Highbrow Films Gather Dust: A Study of Dynamic Inconsistency and Online DVD Rentals," Harvard Business School Working Papers 07-099, Harvard Business School, revised Apr 2008.

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