Nice T-shirt, shame about the magazine

In the competitive market of women's magazines, publishers are increasingly resorting to the gimmickry of cover mounts to sell their product.

Young? Female? Off on holiday? Forget the trip to the High Street for your summer essentials. Just take a trip to your local newsstand. This month, with some judicious buying of light-reading for the journey, you can also secure your beach bag, evening bag, manicure set, sunglasses case, a novel or two and even a rather cute T-shirt.

Young? Female? Off on holiday? Forget the trip to the High Street for your summer essentials. Just take a trip to your local newsstand. This month, with some judicious buying of light-reading for the journey, you can also secure your beach bag, evening bag, manicure set, sunglasses case, a novel or two and even a rather cute T-shirt.

The women's monthly magazine market has gone cover mount crazy - cover mounts being the sexy little gifts found attached in all sorts of imaginative ways to the magazine itself. Last month's flip-flops, courtesy of Cosmopolitan, proved a particular wow among the fashion cognoscenti. As one commentator remarked recently: all the smart people dress according to the glossies. No, silly, not what's in them. What's on them. Once the province of DIY magazines (giving away neat plastic widgets) and craft titles ("fabulous new yarn to try!"), the cover mount has well and truly entered the mainstream.

For more than a year now, the women's monthlies have been competing among themselves to give away the biggest and best cover mounts. So sophisticated have the freebies become, that sometimes it's difficult to tell whether it's the magazine or the cover mount that is the main attraction. "One day I'm sure you'll find a fridge stuck to a magazine," says a slightly rueful Eve Pollard, the former Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror editor.

She might have reason to sound a tad peeved. Her foray into magazine proprietorship ended in tears late last month when her company, Parkhill Publishing, and with it its glossy women's monthly Aura, went into voluntary liquidation. Though Pollard insists cover mounts were never right for Aura ("We took the view that our readers would have enough nice purses already"), Parkhill's managing director, Richard Burton, has cited the expense of cover mounting, and Parkhill's inability to afford it, as one of the problems faced by the fledgling company.

While that is undoubtedly not the whole story of that company's demise, there is no question that, with a good gift, a publisher can boost magazine's sales by as much as 30 per cent.

Some in the newstrade even refer to certain titles as "Nightie Mags" -- their sales rising and falling dramatically, depending on the gift on offer.

But with the women's monthlies market as ferociously competitive as at it is now, with pushy young players, such as Emap's Red, big new launches, such as BBC Worldwide's Eve, and several more launches on their way, publishers will use any means to lure the floating voter in the newsagent -- even if it only adds up to a short-term sales boost.

And the cover mount is an effective weapon in the battle for readers. As Nigel Conway, of media buyer and planning company MediaVest, says: "Sure as eggs is eggs the market is not going to expand just because there are new magazines.

"Publishers have said, look, we need to reinvigorate our performance. Editorially, they've got as near a perfect product as they can get - the editorial standards of magazines are pretty similar - so what sets them apart is added value.

"Cover mounts are great because you've given your reader something, but the downside comes when you publish the next issue. If you don't give away something, your sales will fall. It's like a runaway train, and there's no getting off."

Some, like the National Magazine Company, claim to have been reluctant passengers in the first place.

"We didn't instigate this kind of activity. We were forced to respond to what our competitors started - and that was to protect our market share," says Duncan Edwards, deputy chief executive of NatMags, publishers of Cosmopolitan (this month offering "Free! Sexy summer read!", Wendy Holden novel worth £5.99) and Company (now sporting a free pink or black bandeau top, "worth £8.99!"). "What most publishers are doing is playing a share game," Edwards continues. "Cover mounts are pretty expensive and are probably not adding much value in terms of increased sales overall. The return on the investment is getting worse and worse."

He cites Emap, publisher of Red ("free stylish keyring"), as well as Attic Futura, with B ("French manicure set"), and IPC Media, with Marie-Claire ("the only bag to be seen with") and Nova (the cute t-shirt), as firing the first shots in the cover mount war.

But Sally Brampton, editor of Red, has professed herself unhappy with the aggressive use of such promotional devices, too. "In a sense, everybody's circulation now is completely artificial," she has complained.

Buying readers with cover mounts, according to Edwards, is costing publishers a "fortune". Aside from the gift itself, there are huge costs in sourcing them (they're mostly manufactured in the Far East), packing them and changing the magazine's usual production and distribution schedule.

Edwards, however, is reluctant to give concrete figures. In fact, most publishers are cagey when talking about the actual cost of cover mounting, with quotes ranging from 15p to £2 an issue.

Sally O'Sullivan, managing director of Cabal Communications and former editor of She, Harpers & Queen, Options and Good Housekeeping, says: "It's expensive and very rarely makes complete economic sense on the bottom line. But what cover mounting does is buy circulation for companies that can afford it."

Cabal, the small publishing company she set up two years ago, can't afford it, she adds. "The upside, though, for a small company is that our circulations will be real circulations because they're not pumped up by sales promotions. I still believe - and know, actually - that you never buy loyal readership with a cover mount."

There can be other disadvantages to cover mounts, too. Some magazine sectors have now become completely dependent for sales on them. As with buying a car and expecting it to have four wheels, says WH Smith's head of newspapers and magazines Michael Neil, so with computer and music titles: the consumer expects them to come bundled with software and music CDs attached.

What is more, the consumer's expectation is ever rising. While once the female magazine buyer may have been impressed with a small vial of shampoo, now she expects freebies with real street value.

" Marie-Claire last year cover mounted an organiser," says Neil. "It was a pretty tacky, crappy product and we had customers complaining. They thought they'd paid for it and the quality was poor. From a brand perspective, publishers have to be careful."

Duncan Edwards says Nat Mags is now considering withdrawing from the battlefield. "We'd welcome a move away from cover mounts," he admits.

"Certainly, I think it unlikely that next year we will have as many cover mounts as this year." Anyway, he says: "The British consumer probably has enough nylon bags and keyrings by now." But - with Cosmo expected to have sold an extra 50,000 copies last month - perhaps, Edwards might have added, they don't yet have quite enough flip-flops.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Software Developer / Software Engineer

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: Combining a passion for Softwa...

Lead Software Developer / Senior Software Developer / Technical Architect

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: Lead Software Developer / Seni...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on