Thursday, 16 February 2012


Images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Just watched an episode of RIP OFF BRITAIN, which featured a grandmother's complaint about the price of the comic increasing whenever it includes "gifts".  The grandmother wrote to The BEANO twice and was ignored, before writing to the BBC consumer affairs programme and asking them to investigate the matter.

Rip Off Britain contacted the Dundee fun-factory and was told that, because sales were now in decline, a flexible pricing policy had been instituted to attract new readers.  They also said that they don't describe gifts as "free", which is a bit like someone saying they don't describe torture as being painful.  A gift, by it's very nature, is free - otherwise it isn't a gift.  Did I say Dundee fun-factory?  More like Dunderheid fun-factory.

If (and it's a big "if") the comic sells more issues when it's got toys attached, then those buying it are doing so for the toys, not the comic itself.  That's no way for a comic company to pitch its business, because it's essentially an admission that a comic isn't good enough to attract readers on its own merits.

It also leads to another problem:  Because many of these "gifts" get nicked, some newsagents place them on higher shelves, out of the reach - and sight - of the children they're aimed at.  If they can't see them, they won't buy them - and if the toy is missing (having been stolen), they'll give it a miss for that reason also.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  It's time DCT made up its mind whether it's in the comic business or the lucky bag business.  The Christmas Beano and Dandy were practically a fiver each - all because they had a few cheap, useless toys attached.  Nearly a fiver for The Beano?  Give me a break!  (The actual price was £3.99 - close enough.)

Having said that, The Beano at its normal price is still fairly good value for money, and is a far more attractive proposition than its sister title, The Dandy.  However, DCT really needs to get its act together and come up with a consistent way of pitching the comic to the public.

For any sales it may gain with "gift" issues in the short term, in the long term it probably disillusions some regular purchasers and gives them a convenient "jumping off" point.  As circulation declines, the price will have to increase, serving only to drive away remaining readers over time.  It's a vicious circle, and one that needs to be broken.

Let's hope they've got something up their sleeve - something that isn't going to lead to yet another price increase that is.

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