I think I may know how to save the American magazine industry.
Well no, really, I don't, but I do have an interesting theory.
Let me explain: In Tokyo, grocery and convenience stores don't carry Vogue Nippon and Elle. They stock teen titles, general interest pubs and an interesting item called an E-Mook.
Essentially, today's E-Mook (mook is a shortened word for a cross between a magazine and a book) is a designer look book packaged with some sort of complimentary item, like a cotton tote or a makeup bag. Or, in the case of the Marc by Marc Jacobs version, a towel. They cost around $15. Everyone from Cath Kidson, to Marc to See by Chloe releases these.
I bought a couple for "research," including the Milk Fed 15th anniversary book. (Yes, Milk Fed, Sofia Coppola's amazing mid-'90s fashion line, still exists in Japan.) It came with a really nice canvas tote emblazoned with the Milk Fed logo, as well as a look book featuring the spring collection. I also got the Nimes E-Mook, accompanied by a stripey bag.
These novel items got me thinking about the free gifts that come with British magazines. Britt says that she's never bought something off the rack just because it comes with a free gift, mostly because said gifts are usually crappy. I must admit that I have. I got a very nice Orla Kiely passport holder once, as well as some delicious orange-flavored milk chocolate.
In general, though, the gifts are sub par. But they still get me excited. This may be because I'm a shopaholic, or it may be because like most consumers, I like to feel that there is "value" being "added" to my purchase.
This lead me to wonder: Why don't American magazines regularly offer a "free gift with purchase"? This marketing tactic has proved effective over and over again.
It may not save the magazine industry, but it might increase newsstand sales.