Magazine Week (3)

More on the lessons that can be learned from World Book Day.

Its a striking tribute to the success of WBD that it has gathered support from all sectors of the book trade: publishers, authors, shops and retail, libraries and schools and of course the consumers. Everybody has been pushing and the Booksellers Association has been in the lead. I asked Tim Godfray, ceo of the BA, about their involvement and in his words the promotion has been ‘without question an amazingly successful’ exercise. The BA estimates that the advertising value of the publicity achieved is in the range of £3.2-3.4 million this year (with extensive promotions in the Sun and the Daily Mirror and lots of TV and radio advertising). 14 million WBD tokens were produced, and most of these tokens were exchanged for ‘£1 off a book’ or for one of the specially produced titles, selected from publishers’ offerings and priced for the promotion, at £1 a time. Godfray emphasises that this success comes from everybody committing resources. The publishers club together to fund the organization and provide the core budget, while the booksellers take the hit on the margin (they absorb the £1 off on the free Book Tokens) and the schools also like to get involved — 40,000 school packs distributed.

It will be hard for Magazine Week to find such an obviously ‘good’ goal as helping kids to read, and to buy their first book. For books have a particularly central and foundational role in the reading pantheon — I dont see ‘helping kids to buy their first magazine’ having a comparable pulling power with teachers and parents. But finding a goal which is not too obviously self-interested. Not in Joel Rickett’s phrase too obvious a ‘retail gimmick’, but a noble challenge or opportunity around which the whole consumer magazine market can coalesce — that is the challenge. Because the WBD cause is so obviously worthwhile, as well as being ‘publisher self-interested’ the big wheels of the publishing business Gail Rebuck (Random House), Tim Hely-Hutchinson (Hachette) and Nigel Newton (Bloomsbury) are prepared to invest personal initiatives in making it work. They have been very active, especially in PR. More about PR tomorrow.