I’ve been reading Surfer Magazine for three decades and subscribing to it for a long time. But in the end, the owners failed to honor their commitments with subscribers.
In 2020, I lost my favorite publications – Q and Surfer Magazine. I subscribed to both titles for years.
Q was probably the world’s greatest music magazine. The first issue was released in October 1986, and the final copy printed in July 2020.
It was 34 years old.
Despite closing its doors, the editor and the company were fully transparent with their readers and subscribers.
It was not financially sustainable anymore – people now get everything they need online.
The Q editor wrote a farewell message on the last print issue. The publishing company also sent an email to all subscribers:
“I am writing to inform you that we have regrettably taken the decision to cease publishing Q magazine in a printed and downloadable digital edition format. The last publication will be issue 415, delivered on or around July 28, 2020,” the email read.
“Your subscription will then be transferred to our sister publication Mojo.”
“However, if you are unhappy with this transfer, you can, of course, request a refund for the outstanding term of your subscription.”
Fair enough. It was a fun a ride while it lasted.
With Surfer Magazine, I had the opposite experience. It was a huge letdown.
I didn’t receive the last issue, I was not informed about the shutdown of the publication, and I was not refunded for the remaining of my subscription.
The whole process was surreal.
I read in the news that Surfer Magazine was closing down, but I never got an official statement from the publisher or editor.
A360 Media, previously known as American Media, Inc. (AMI), operates three branches – Entertainment Group, Teen Group, and Adventure Sports Network (ASN).
ASN is responsible for managing a portfolio of action sports titles, including Men’s Journal, Transworld Skateboarding, Dew Tour, Powder, Snowboarder, Bike, and Surfer Magazine.
I sent an email to Surfer Magazine asking why I never received the last copy of the publication and what their plans were to refund the remaining subscription.
I never got an answer.
Then, on November 6, 2020, I tried the customer service at A360 Media and finally got a reply. From a Bike email account.
They asked if the address they had on their database was correct – it wasn’t. It was truncated. So, apparently, A360 Media had a good excuse.
On the other hand, and strangely enough, I’ve always received Surfer Magazine in my mailbox without any problems.
Anyway, I corrected the address and got the following message:
“Service was suspended on your subscription when we received notification from the U.S. Postal Service that your address was undeliverable.”
“Service has now been resumed, and your subscription extended for the number of issues that you missed. Please allow one or two issues for the change in expiration date to appear on your address label.”
One or two issues? But hasn’t the magazine been suspended?
Also, the email sent by the Bike Customer Service didn’t mention any refund process, so I once again kindly asked how and when they would proceed with the refund.
They replied on November 27, 2020.
“We are in the process of forwarding your refund information to your credit card company or your other payment method account, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, etc. Please allow one or two statements for this information to appear on your statement.”
The last sentence sounds a bit confusing, doesn’t it? Well, I still hoped for the best.
Still Making Money
One and a half months later, I still hadn’t received the last copy of Surfer Magazine, and the refund was a mirage or a perfect promised wave that never arrived.
In the meantime, Surfer Magazine’s website and social media continued strangely active, probably keeping the monetization going for as long as possible.
Naively, I wrote a private and public message on the magazine’s Facebook page but was not lucky enough to get feedback.
Surfer Magazine was dead for its subscribers but still alive for making money. Now, that’s what I call a smart business model.
On January 14, 2021, I wrote one final email to A360 Media, Bike, Surfer, or whatever that strange email account was.
All I got in return was silence.
The so-called “Surfer’s Bible” became a shadow of its glorious past and a passive, return-on-investment asset.
Do I think A360 Media cares about its customers? I don’t.
Do I understand why Surfer Magazine closed its doors? I do.
John Severson deserved more – the founder of Surfer created an iconic brand that lasted 60 years.
He would undoubtedly honor the loyalty of its readers and followers even in the most dramatic end.
Words by a longtime Surfer Magazine subscriber