Freebie discs spin variable results for sales figures

A deluge of free CDs, DVDs and other promotions had a mixed effect on newspaper sales last month, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation figures.

A free DVD of Look Back in Anger helped The Observer to a net sales increase of 12.5 per cent (excluding bulks) and The Independent on Sunday's latest language CD and part two of free mini-book The Indypedia helped rocket paid-for circulation by 28.43 per cent year-on-year.

Time will tell how much these circulation gains were down to promotions and how much down to both titles'

recent format changes — The Observer to Berliner and the Sindy to tabloid.

Elsewhere, the Daily Mail gave away a series of free British comedy films on DVD, but still lost 1.59 per cent of its sales year on year. The sales drop would have been higher but for its Irish edition, launched in February, which has so far added 60,000 Irish sales compared with a year ago.

According to one industry source, sister title the Mail on Sunday put on 600,000 copies (or 31 per cent) with week one of a two-CD Mick Hucknall promotion. But overall paid-for sales (excluding bulks) for April were still down 1 per cent.

The Financial Times is apparently in the pink circulation-wise, boasting an 8.3 per cent headline increase year on year to 462,235. Minus UK bulks, the FT is still up a hefty 7.97 per cent to 428,895.

But a closer look at the data reveals that the FT's core UK and Ireland sale continues to decline — down to 132,699 from 137,287 a year ago.

The FT's growth is coming from its overseas editions, about which we have less detailed audit information.

Circulation of the US edition has increased to 147,437, compared with 125,104 a year ago, and the Asia edition has gone up from 35,242 to 46,602.

New national daily betting paper The Sportsman recorded its first official ABC in April after launching on 22 March, and according to its owners, the headline figure of 21,819 puts it on track to reach what they say is the break-even sales figure of 40,000. But the gross figure currently includes more than 5,000 give-away bulks — actual paid-for sales for April totalled 16,315.

Sportsman chairman Jeremy Deedes said: "We are encouraged by April's sales figure in a month when sales were a secondary concern to promotion and visibility. Now we know exactly where we are, we can embark on sales beyond the newsstands themselves — like the foreign gambling centres, corporate hospitality and direct to the racing and betting industry as we gear up for the all-important World Cup. We are also steadily improving the distribution of the paper."

Sales of established betting daily, the Racing Post, were down 4.55 per cent year on year to 81,228, but owner Trinity Mirror said only between 1 and 3 per cent of that drop is due to The Sportsman.

The Guardian's Berliner size relaunch last September may have won it a string of awards, but sales-wise the benefits are now drying up. Its total circulation dropped back 1.38 per cent month on month and was up just 1.93 per cent year on year to 374,580. Net sales (excluding bulks) were up 5.34 per cent year-on-year to 359,303.

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