May 18, 2020

One way to save the magazine industry: vegetable seeds

A family magazine in India jolted quarantine-era circulation with a throwback add-on called a covermount.

Gardening is so popular right now, it might help some magazines bloom.

Since India’s lockdown began in late March, one family magazine — the Manorama Weeklydecided to test out a new marketing strategy: Glue packs of vegetable seeds to every print issue. 

Circulation has jumped 30%, and the editor in chief is sure that the vegetable seeds are one reason why. 

About all of those AOL CDs 

Vegetable seeds are a new twist, but magazine cover add-ons  — called covermounts — have been flooding bedrooms with unwanted vinyl discs since the 1960s.  

In the ‘90s and ‘00s, CDs ruled the covermount game — so much so that, in 2007, Prince debuted his record Planet Earth as an attachment in a UK newspaper, The Mail on Sunday

You might have encountered covermounts without even realizing it. To get people to sign up for the internet in the ’90s, AOL stuck free CDs in Happy Meals, cereal boxes, and magazines — in total, the company mailed out about $300m+ worth.

Covermounts went beyond discs, too: One tech-y fanzine attached a computer — in the form of Raspberry Pi Zero hardware — as a covermount in 2015.

Should we care about covermounts in 2020?

It’s no secret that the coronavirus is staining the media industry in red ink. While some magazines are doing quite well, disappearing ad dollars have led to massive layoffs at Condé Nast, Vox, VICE, The Hollywood Reporter, and others.

Everyone’s money is tight, so publications are fighting to make themselves essential. The Los Angeles Times wants to be your babysitter: It rolled out a kids’ section amid quarantine. Iowa’s The Gazette is filling its PennySaver with school district updates for families without internet access. 

But don’t be surprised if your local paper starts to get more ambitious. If vegetable seeds started the trend, covermounted sourdough starters might come next.

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