In the 1980s, I worked as a sub and reporter for two weekly medical newspapers: Doctor and Hospital Doctor. In each issue of both, there was a spread of reader offers by post: one page for medical equipment, the other for general goods. It was a good source of income and an idea I copied at Redwood Publishing – I was later told the cash income from one offer saved the company from going bust.
One of many spin-offs from Tit-Bits magazine
But the idea of publishers selling goods off the page goes back far longer than that. Tit-Bits, that great Victorian pioneer of marketing and all these magazines, spun off books, puzzles and offers of all kinds. Publishers have always sought new sources of revenue because the margins are often far higher than the main publishing business – the trick is not to upset your advertisers.
And it’s still true today, with Future this week teaming up with the Telegraph to produce computer guides for the newspaper’s readers. Windows: The Official Magazine has developed Confident Computing supplements that will be published on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 March, for the Daily Telegraph’s 1.68m readers and the Sunday Telegraph’s 1.45m readers. That’s a lot of publicity for the magazine, and Future will be hoping that the glossy, 52-page supplements will draw less tech-savvy users into the magazine with sections on email, online shopping, internet security and hardware and troubleshooting tips. Alongside the Saturday supplement will be a subscription deal offering three copies of Windows: The Official Magazine for just £1 each.
Hidden Treasure puzzle from Tit-Bits
Future obviously sees potential growth in the magazine (seems strange, just as PC and laptop sales are being hit by the iPad frenzy) with a series of Official Windows Presents set for April, an example of ‘brand extension’ in today’s jargon. Each of these will focus on how computing can help people ‘get more from life’ in areas such as home entertainment, travel, buying and selling online and healthy living.
This is an area where Future has experience: in the 1990s, the Financial Times bought the publisher to pursue just such activities, but the idea floundered and Future took itself independent again.
Other recent ideas include:
However, the title that’s really made a go of things in this area is Tyler Brule’s Monocle.
- shops selling its branded goods in London and four other cities;
- goods made by international brands, from a £20 Monocle notebook to a £370 blanket for sale online;
- Other products branded with its logo have included: a Comme des Garçons perfume; a bicycle; bags; and a Danish-made table. Its bags costs £155-£270. Media Week reckoned it had sold 2000. At £200 each, that’s an income of 400,000, comparable with the magazine selling 100,000 copies a month at £5 each;
- sponsored online video interviews, reports and travel guides sponsored by the likes of Maurice Lacroix, Spanish tourism and Bloomberg.
That’s an impressive list. But there’s nothing original about the idea – and more magazines could follow the example.