Freebie watch: October 2006

A veritable bonanza of freebies was given away with national newspapers in October. In addition to the usual DVDs and CDs, The Observer gave readers a sachet of ground coffee and on several occasions, Evening Standard vendors offered readers a natty free blue umbrella.

If a buyer isn't found for Press Gazette Ltd this week, the administrator will at least be able to hold a half-decent jumble sale from the collection of swag currently weighing down my desk.

The Independent struck new ground this month by giving readers freebies which were actually related to its journalism.

It celebrated its 20th birthday on Saturday, 8 October, by giving away a free Indypendium book chronicling the best of its journalism, and another in The Independent on Sunday the following day.

It also treated readers to a week of glossy prints taken from its picture archives, and reverted to a tried and tested formula with a week of Valezquez art posters to tie in with a London exhibition.

Verdict: Hit (in a tough month all round, The Indy edged in front of The Times and The Guardian in PG's chart — themselves no slouches on the marketing front).

Cuba Libres all round at The Observer, where a free Buena Vista Social Club DVD helped to propel it to the top of this month's PG sales growth table with a stonking 8.19 per cent rise, or 31,000 extra copies on average over the month. Its £1.70 cover price is also probably starting to look like a bargain compared with the £2 Sunday Times.

Verdict: Hit.

Lord Rothermere's deep pockets meant Mail readers were treated to a festival of freebies in October.

There was a two-week 14-disc series of romance DVDs — given away through a combination of inserts and redeemable vouchers — in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

The Mail also gave readers a series of free wildlife posters. And The Mail on Sunday's free DVD of the Michael Caine film Too Late the Hero is estimated by one well-placed source to have put on 368,000 sales alone.

The position of both titles near the top of the PG table shows that all that spending has done the trick. But each DVD insert must be costing Associated around £1 million to produce — so it is a hugely costly way to hang on to readers. Verdict: Hit.

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