Media Lifeline: Newspaper freebies

Newspapers use everything from CDs, DVDs and now posters to tempt readers.

1981: Fitful promotional tactics based around star prizes such as holidays and cars have long been standard fare in the newspaper industry. But The Sun kicks off a more sustained promotional war in the tabloid sector when, already riding high in circulation terms, it launches a bingo game. Its rivals, notably the Daily Mirror, follow suit and prize money begins to ratchet up towards £1 million.

1998: A one-off innovation by The Mail on Sunday - a compilation CD of football-related music - plays on growing World Cup fever and heightened anticipation surrounding England's participation in the tournament. But few in the industry give the initiative a second thought.

2000: In any case, Associated has begun focusing on more ambitious, high-profile promotions, such as its "Win a dream home" formats running in various guises across the Mail titles and the Evening Standard. But the rest of the industry is just starting to digest the fact that the MoS World Cup CD lifted circulation that day by 10 per cent.

2005: DVD and CD compilation giveaways had been ramping up across 2004, but in 2005 all hell breaks loose as the nationals give away a total of more than 80 titles. They range from TV compilations such as Only Fools and Horses to classic films such as Cabaret.

2006: This is proving expensive for an industry struggling to make ends meet. Publishers turn to a cheaper device - the educational yet aesthetically pleasing poster. Topics range from wildlife collages to gemstones, wonders of the world to classic films.

Fast forward ...

2008: As title after title begins reducing print overheads to concentrate on web operations, publishers (as many of them still refer to themselves) come up with a new promotional device: reproductions of classic newspapers from the golden age of print distributed by direct mail and street hand-outs. These prove moderately successful in driving traffic to their online successors.