Thursday, 16 February 2012

RIP-OFF BEANO...?


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.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

strange thing for thomsons to do. surely thats false advertising to charge more for a gift.



Eddie Park

Kid said...

I think DCT will need to find another way of describing the tat they attach to their comics, Eddie. For the life of me 'though, I can't think of a word that doesn't sound like a freebie. Anyone got any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

They haven't called them free gifts for a while now. Last week's Dandy went with 'Mega comic + Awesome Dart Shooter' whilst The Beano didn't mention it at all (working on the principle that kids will notice the cover mount without any blurb telling them).

Other publishers have fluctuating price points so I don't know why DCT was targeted.

Kid said...

Targeted? Perhaps that's overstating the case. The BBC were simply addressing a specific complaint about The Beano in particular. Had someone made a general complaint about comics, I'm sure the coverage would have been different.

As for the other comics you allude to, perhaps they don't advertise their attachments as gifts, but in the case of Doctor Who Adventures (for example), don't they have a cover mounted item every issue?

Mr Straightman said...

Last night I figured out that - if what I'm told about how much DC Thomson pays its artists and writers per issue is true - the average budget for each Beano would be around the £5,500 mark. They're easily selling enough copies to clear that amount, so God alone knows why they're padding the comic like a cheap settee with reprints and other 'filler', when the Dandy contains all new art and script material in every single issue and is the weaker seller by a very wide margin.
Is the Beano being made to suffer so that the Dandy can stay afloat, I wonder? Back when I bought the Beano it was 20 pages, no adverts, and aside from the letters page it was all new stuff. Needless to say (but I will) it was a damn sight better for it.

Kid said...

The ads alone would cover the budget of producing the comic, one would think. However, I believe that some of the strips in The Dandy are also reprint, unless I'm getting the two comics mixed up.

Anonymous said...

Really annoyed I paid for last weeks without looking at the price. Disgusted at the sneaky way they are doing this.

Kid said...

I think it's safe to assume that everytime the comic is bagged it's going to cost more, so I think most regular readers know the drill by now. However, for casual buyers or parents picking it up for wee Johnny, it can certainly come as a shock.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could mention that the price increase also includes extra pages in those issues?

Kid said...

But don't those extra pages also include more ads and reprints?

Anonymous said...

Not always more ads, but it's irrelevant if they have more reprints or not. Extra pages still increase the printer's bill.

Kid said...

It might be relevant to the buyers, and Thomson's ARE the printers, are they not? Anyway, does it increase it enough to warrant a jump to £4.99 for the Christmas issues? I think not.

Anonymous said...

They haven't printed their own comics since 2010. They closed or downsized the printers.

Anonymous said...

Dundee printers

Kid said...

I see they closed one printing plant and downsized another, but I see nothing about them not printing their comics themselves anymore. Regardless, they claim that the issues with toys sell more - if that's true, the increased profits from those issues should more than pay for extra pages. If they don't, then it's hardly worth the bother.

Anonymous said...

It says only the newspapers will be printed there so I assumed it meant comics were printed by an outside printer. Perhaps not then.

Kid said...

I don't think it said "only", but what it did say was that they remained committed to their newspapers, magazines and comics interests.

Regardless, the only way DCT would consider outside printers is if it worked out cheaper (or at least no more expensive) than doing it themselves. It just wouldn't make sense otherwise.

Kid said...

I did a little checking and discovered that The Dandy and The Beano are printed by a company called BGP. I don't know if they're a subsidiary of DCT or not, but they've been on the go for about 35 years.

As I said, however, I don't think Thomson's can justify raising the price by £1 or more for a few extra pages and some cheap junk. If, as they claim, the "gift" issues sell more, the extra profit should more than cover the expense. If it doesn't, then the raised price seems to be nothing more than a cynical move to take advantage of regular buyers.

Most of those who purchase an issue only for the toy are unlikely to buy the next issue without one, but some regular readers may also be deterred from purchasing it. So as the general circulation declines, DCT will have to raise the price to compensate, which in turn will eventually alienate even more readers.

And I repeat: A fiver for the Christmas issues was ruddy ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kid the Christmas issues were £3.99 not a fiver. Cheers.

Kid said...

Does it make that much of a difference? In my post, I did initially say practically a fiver, because £3.99 is closer to it than not. Hand a five-spot over and get only £1 (okay - and a penny) in change? Bloody ridiculous, whatever way you look at it.

J said...

You should write about them for their latest rip off with the golden tickets.

Kid said...

I don't think anyone is any doubt about what's going on with that one, J. Anything I could say would be superfluous.

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