Whoever said consumers will no longer pay top dollar for news must have forgotten to tell trendy literary virtuoso Dave Eggers. The author and founder of the McSweeney’s publishing house — famous for its popular and quirky literary journal that has been published as a bundle of mail and a cigar box — is the latest to try his hand at print journalism. His business model? Turn the newspaper into a Giffen good.
This quarter’s issue, No. 33 of Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, takes the form of a colossal Sunday-type newspaper, complete with book reviews, comics, cooking tips and, of course, news. And though the 300 brawny pages of the McSweeney’s Panorama may call to mind images of another mighty squad of 300, it’ll actually cost you more than a day at the cinema to get your hands on the one-time-only Panorama.
At $16 an issue, Eggers may look like an overbidding contestant in the game of print journalism, but the price tag could be a wise move. Many of the issues are ordered in advance under paid McSweeney’s subscriptions, and even the more casual reader would rather pay the big bucks for 112 pages of full-color broadsheet, a 116-page book review, three posters, a weekend guide and a 112-page magazine than, say, for four Big Macs. And then there’s the classic lesson from the Grey Poupon school of economics: Crank up the price, and consumers think they’re buying a luxury item.