And You Thought The Newsstand Was Out Of Control In This Country…

And You Thought The Newsstand Was Out Of Control In This Country…

U.S. newsstand publishers are certainly no Strangers to cover-mounted premiums. But in U.K., publishers are caught up in a virtual doodads war, with no de-escalation in sight Old stand-bys like music CDs, CD-ROMs and editorial booklets are plentiful, but it’s also gone way beyond that Items recently attached to U.K. magazines include Frusli bars (Health & Fitness); flip-flops (Cosmo); tee-shirts (Shape, Elle and Star); fashion wrist cuffs (TV Hits); a “slash-neck top” (Elle); sunglasses (GQ); a pack of cards (Esquire); and a sample of absinthe (appropriately enough, from Bizarre), according to the Web site ‘This is London” (www.thisislondon.co.uk).

Publishers aren’t thrilled about the pressure to ante up. “We’re in a spiral of competition, and I can’t see anyone saying it’s a great thing,” the site quotes GQ publishing director Peter Stuart as observing. “It boosts sales in the short term, but the trend can’t increase much further before there’s reaction.”

Even the premium purveyors are amazed at the gold mine they’ve stumbled into. An executive at one sourcing company, describing the market as “pretty saturated,” added: “It’s gone crazy, and there’s only one way to go.”

The realities driving the giveaway gambit may sound familiar. According to the U.K.’s Periodical Publishers’ Association, the number of titles published in Britain jumped from 2,184 in 1990 to 3,174 in 1999, while total sales increased by just 5 percent during that period. The freebie frenzy was ignited back in the mid-’90s, after Elle saw huge leaps in sales with branded bags and other items.

Nor is British premium creativity limited to newsstand copies. At one point, a car magazine, Max Power, was offering colorful condoms as a value-added for new subscribers.

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