In days gone by, papers were sold by plastering a big scoop on the front page. This morning I have witnessed a far more efficient way of selling papers.
Give away a free Lego kit.
This morning I wandered into WHSmiths with my head hung low in shame, prepared to lie that it was for my little brother, with the intention of buying a copy of the Sun for the sole purpose of getting the free Lego kit offered on the front page.
It soon became clear that I was not the only one. A queue formed from the till to half way down the shop in the quiet Wimbledon store, everyone lined up clutching their copies of the Sun. After a brief chat with the woman in front of me who was most definitely not a Sun reader, it was clear that this had been a daily occurrence while the offer had been running with parents and grandparents being sent out to pick these kits up, but this was not what made my shame disappear. These were after all devoted parents looking out for their young charges.
What made my shame vanish utterly were the people buying bundles of papers to get more kits. An overheard conversation going on behind me revealed the snippet “oh, I see you decided to stop at 20 today” as more boxes of free Lego kits were frantically opened by till staff. I half expected to see a mountain of discarded papers immediately outside the shop.
The Sun newspaper is on to something here. This offer must have boosted their daily sales by a huge amount. As a journalist, it is slightly worrying that a free plastic toy can pull more readers than hard journalistic graft, this is slightly worrying.
Of course, can free Lego really be such a bad thing?