Freebie watch: September 2006

Independent editor Simon Kelner has described CD and DVD giveaways as like crack cocaine for national newspaper editors, giving them a one-off circulation hit before they come crashing right back down again.

After an abstemious month in August, September has seen many editors back again on the hard stuff, writes Dominic Ponsford.

The Sunday Times sought to take the edge off its price rise to £2 with a Premiership goals DVD (which required a phone call), a CD of Jimi Hendrix live at the Albert Hall, a Johnny Cash CD and a Ryder Cup DVD. The result of all that bingeing was a 4.4 per cent net sales drop year on year.

Verdict: miss

If DVDs are circulation crack cocaine, then wall charts are Prozac, providing a gentle daily sales pick-me-up. The Guardian's September promotional bonanza including five days of tree wall charts, a mammals wall chart and a Lord of the Flies DVD. The result was a sales performance never likely to beat last year's much-anticipated Berliner relaunch, but which was well up month on month.

Verdict: hit

The Independent supplemented an array of free posters throughout the month — including a series on the complete human skeleton — with a new idea, a family history CD-ROM which ran together with a book tie-in in the following day's Independent on Sunday. Marketing bods would probably say it ties in well with the paper's "brand values", or something. Both titles were in the top four circulation performers for September.

Verdict: hits

Promotional activity from The Times included a week of giant classic movie posters free with the paper, a DVD of the film Belleville Rendezvous and a DVD of Hong Kong film In The Mood For Love. The net sales decline year on year suggests News International could have spent its promotional cash better.

Verdict: miss

The Express titles supplemented their editorial interest in the death of Diana with a two-part DVD about the story of her life, promoted on TV, which ran over a Saturday and Sunday. Evidently, Express readers really are fascinated by the "Princess of Hearts" and industry estimates have it that the Saturday paper put on 120,000 sales and the Sunday one 170-odd thousand.

Verdict: hit

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