I was at a conference about 15 years ago where I had some sessions with a couple people who worked or Time, Inc. They said pretty much what you said - they would give them away if they could. That is why subscriptions are $10 and not $50. They don't (or didn't) make their money off subscriptions, they made them off ads.
Of course, that was 15 years ago and things have changed a lot since then. Still, I subscribe to a few of them either because they're free or because they're dirt cheap. I can go through them in 20 minutes, but I only read what I want. I don't read the "14 tips to a better swing" articles. I do enjoy reading interviews with the pros. Better than anything on TV.