Friday, October 15, 2010

Random Shopping around Town and thoughts of the current Magazine Industry(Local Magazines should give out Branded Freebies!)

Sorta hang around town the whole day cos nothing new in Kinokuniya...Visited a few big and small bookstores around town, in the neighbourhoods, near the sea...etc...etc..saw many magazines on display....saw all the promotions big and small, the freebies, GWPs given out in small news stands. With the emergence of electronic devices such as the E-Reader, IPAD and all, its still amazing to see magazines selling so well or being prominently displayed everywhere. Local Magazines dominated the news-stands in most places other than in shopping centres and Holland Village where most expats hang out. Foreign magazines tend to be sold in Major Bookstores such as Kinokuniya, Borders, Times and Page One.

Before one question what I am writing about and where did I come from to write this piece on the industry....
13 years ago, a young man waiting for his 0 level results started his love for magazines when working in a Offset Printer Company started by his uncle..was involved in the marketing of the company services early on and had a chance to work with the now "defunct" Microsoft Magazine...which ended up in a chance meeting with Mr Bill Gates when he came to Singapore...His love for magazines continued even after he left the company to pursue his studies. Foreign Magazines tend to interest him rather than the local ones although once in a while...he buys "M3","Lime" and occasionally "Teenage & Teens" cos his friends sometimes appear on the cover. Foreign Titles such as "Cosmopolitan"(before the ban lifted in SG), Vogue, Ralph and other titles too liberal to list here often take up the floor space below his bed or hidden in his cabinet. A guy who understood that advertisements rather than content driven magazines will never go far in his early days. Alas how times have the current magazine industry is facing a new challenge..the age of digital and how Freebie driven Magazines are slowly replacing Advertisement driven titles who in turn are slowly morphing themselves to be Content Driven....Big Joke Right??

Summary of the magazines selling in Singapore
Only 2 Categories - Foreign and Local; with the local titles in English,Malay,Chinese & Indian. Foreign Titles selling here includes Spanish,Italian,French,German,English,Chinese & Japanese.

Local Magazines - Locally produced magazines...the so called "Made in SG". Big local female fashion Titles include Her World, Female, Simply Her for the English, NuYou for Chinese, Glam, Manja for Malay...Men's Titles include FHM, Men's Health & New Man etc..Some titles are original for example Her World and most of the Malay magazines. The rest are just "RIP Offs" or licensed titles from Foreign Magazines.
Attractive selling points include Cheap Prices, Huge Circulations, and sometimes they are bundled up with "Cheap Freebies" available in most new stands. To their credit they have shown some creativity in packaging their titles and branding by having exclusive promotions with Book Stores such as Kinokuniya which further exposes their Magazine Brand with the "UP Market" crowd.

Foreign Magazines - Magazines imported from overseas. Main selling point for the UK & US ones are their quality content although the prices are a bit steep. Popular titles include the various versions of Vogue, Elle & FHM. Business & Technology titles are also popular here such as "Stuff" which as a SG rip off version...BBC Top Gear & FHM... + many other sports & entertainment magazines which are sorely lacking in the local scene. Freebies wise....UK magazines have more freebies especially their sports and music magazines often comes pre-packaged with CDs Dvds, instructional videos etc. Fashion magazines sometimes comes pre-packaged with cosmetic freebies although most of the "imported versions" are sorely LACKING in THEM....! (In SG only PAGE One has imported versions with the freebies such as the Glamour Benefit Mascara!!!)
Chinese Titles(Foreign) comes mainly from 3 countries..Taiwan, China and HongKong. Most of them are available either as weeklies(mainly HK tabloids) or monthlies...Selling points are the attractive freebies that comes with it although the prices are sometimes quite steep. Most titles are licensed versions of fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie's Claire..(I mean those selling in SG). Niche titles such as sports or men's interest also are sold here although the market is not big...For Taiwan titles, only 2 bookstores import their titles from overseas which is differentiated by the freebies that is given out with the freebies...the rest by local distributors has the freebies taken out due to licensing issues..(NO FREEBIES). Freebies that appear in Taiwanese Magazines include Agnes B Cosmetic Pouches etc
HongKong Magazines is only imported in directly from HongKong(meaning with freebies) by 2 independent stores in Singapore..only. NO Major Bookstore in Singapore import their own HongKong Magazines(Maybe Page One). The majority selling in Singapore are without the freebies distributed by local distributors. That is why you see sometimes the prices for the imported versions(with freebies often varies from store to store) and sometimes the difference in the price is very great such as for the HongKong Tabloids....ELITE SG only distributes the back versions to Popular and some news vendors...which the 2 independent small bookstores that self import gets the latest issue albeit at a more expensive price...and with attractive freebies for the monthly magazines.(One shop actually do distribution so if you follow my earlier postings you will know who) Freebies that appear frequently includes Japanese Brands such as Beams and Tsumori Chisato...
China Magazines is mainly sold in SG via one BookStore & Independent Distributor in SG. Again no Major Bookstore currently imports their own but then again no local distributors so mainly the magazines that are sold here comes with the freebies....but in limited copies...(Those who follow my postings know which shop I am talking about) Mainly the titles that are sold here are finance magazines, men's interests such as watch magazines and female fashion magazines such as cosmo, elle and vogue which comes with very attractive freebies like Vivienne Tam Bags and all.
Japanese Magazines - Need not mentioned much cos Majority are brought in by Kinokuniya SG which dominated the industry ever since its opening....some minor copies are brought in by Page One via sea which is slower and many opportunist blogshop owners are also jumping in the bandwagon by selling the items online. The attractiveness of the magazines are the freebies or "FUROKU" that comes with the magazines. Popular titles such as In Red, Can Can Vivi JJ, Sweet, Steady, Mini & others have attracted a cult following in Singapore. Throw in a couple of "Branded" Freebies...and there you go...a top-selling product...Top Japanese Brand such as Beams,Headporter,HBG,Tsumori Chisato have all appeared in the form of Tote Bags or Pouches that are banded together with the magazines. International Brand such as Agnes B, Fred Perry, AntePrima, Paul & Joe and Jill Stuart have also provided free bags and all as supplements to be banded together with the magazines... A totally no brainer here.....they are sure to become top sellers in any magazines industry despite a heavy price tag(close to SGD 20 per copy)...Free Branded Bags...who cares if I know Japanese or not?!

Woah....Very Tired after writing so long.....Conclusion....even though I believe a good magazine will sell itself without any freebies....I think that the gifts actually opens up the audience to a new title especially if it is foreign and there is a language barrier. For example... I aint read Japanese, but that has not stop me from reading the Japanese titles such as SMART which focuses on Men's Fashion..(free gift is Armani Exchange Bag this month and HeadPorter Bag next Issue) for its photo shoots and styling/grooming tips. Many Japanese Fashion magazines are very universally understood, you only need to see the pictures of the clothes and the makeup....aint need to read the article sometimes...although some knowledge of Jap is good....
I am a pro-content magazines reader and believe that a good content will drive a magazine a long way...but this freebie thingy certainly does not look to end maybe its a short term solution to drive up the circulation or sales...but many short term = long term...especially if it benefits the magazines, the publishers and the consumers and not to mention the branding that is featured on the magazine in the form of the freebies....I certainly hope that the local magazines publishers will follow suit and include all this freebies....instead of comparing how much the foreign titles cost...COME if HER World increase price from $6 to $10 but include a Agnes B large TOTE BAG...see if the sales will go up or not???

Enough for today non structured rantings and all....I will follow up shortly with a profile on a few bookstores selling magazines in SG.(when I am free or when I feel bored)The titles they carry, their strengths, their weakness, and the areas I feel they could improve...and best of all if anyone is starting a new may find good info here..also will include the best places to buy the Chinese Magazines with the freebies....

Haha a few pictures here to close this post....items are all available as of today at the various magazines distribution shops in town...except Ming Magazine which was fully booked and the distributor cannot let me see what is the freebie given...


  1. Nice article. I feel bookstores should bring in the magazines that originally comes with the free gift. It will give the customer a more value for money item as the chinese magazine are already so marked up here. If I am not mistaken, only the shop in honglim sell and distributes the magazine that comes originally from hong kong with the freebie. china magazine should be great river in bukit timah right? they also have a retail shop behind bugis.

  2. hi. very informative article.
    where did u spot the dollybird doll magazine?

  3. Thanks for the info regarding dollybird :)