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Author Topic: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...  (Read 2072 times)

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DeCarlo Rules

Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« on: November 10, 2016, 11:05:26 AM »
So I just happened to be looking at Betty and Veronica Digest # 92 (dated Dec. 1997), and I came across this mail-order ACP house ad (variations on which I'd seen before) selling single copies of specific digest issues. In this case, the titles and issue numbers being sold were:

ARCHIE ANDREWS WHERE ARE YOU DIGEST #112 [On Sale Now!]
ARCHIE'S STORY & GAME DIGEST #39 [On Sale Mid-November]
VERONICA'S DIGEST #6 [Available Through This Ad Only]
LITTLE ARCHIE DIGEST #20  [Available Through This Ad Only]
BETTY'S DIGEST #2  [Available Through This Ad Only]

So I'm wondering about this "Available Through This Ad Only" business, since I'm not really sure how to interpret that. Those happened to be the last issues of both VERONICA'S DIGEST and BETTY'S DIGEST, and doing some checking, I see that those two digests only came out once a year. I'm not sure how often LITTLE ARCHIE DIGEST came out, but it seems like #20 (Sept. 1997) was the next-to-last issue, with the final issue being published six months later, in March 1998.

So the question is, were these just issues that ACP had some kind of short print run of, and then they sold them exclusively through mail-order sales? I ask because it seems like maybe they were trying some kind of experiment to see whether that was worthwhile for them. The rationale would be, these are characters that aren't as popular as the main digest titles, so sales through traditional distribution methods might result in a lot of returns-for-credit. However, if ACP just distributed the issues themselves, that meant that they got to keep ALL of the cover price (which was $1.79 for a regular 96-page digest in 1997), minus the cost of postage. Through the normal distribution methods, ACP got to keep less than half the cover price (probably closer to a third, actually).

 -- OR, were these distributed through the normal channels, but they just sold poorly, and the mail-order ad just represents whole bunches of copies that they had left over in their warehouse afterwards, that they needed to get rid of? I know for a fact that they must have had tons of copies of BETTY'S DIGEST #1 and VERONICA'S DIGEST #5, because when I ordered a random digest sampler pack from ACP about a year and a half ago, they still had copies! But this isn't the first time I've seen mail-order ads featuring those titles (if not the exact same issue numbers) that claimed "Available Through This Ad Only". I've seen a similar ad (presumably from a year earlier) that mentioned those same two issues (BETTY'S DIGEST #1 and VERONICA'S DIGEST #5) as "Available Through This Ad Only".
« Last Edit: November 10, 2016, 11:18:55 AM by DeCarlo Rules »

steveinthecity

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2016, 03:00:34 PM »
Good question.  As for Betty Digest #2, there was both a newsstand and direct market edition, so I'm wondering if the Ads were selling one or the other version as a test of sorts as you suggested?


In general I believed the in-house ads for back issues was just a method used for selling off inventory.  ACP seemed to overprint as part of their business model with the digests.  Not how publishers overprinted when affidavit returns were the norm, but for maintaining backstock for later sale.



Comics!

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2016, 05:23:46 PM »
Well, there are several interesting factors to consider about this ad. One, from the list of titles, we can probably assume that these were the poorest-selling of all the then-current Archie digest titles. There are three final digest issues included in that list (ARCHIE'S STORY & GAME #39, BETTY #2, VERONICA #6), and one next-to-last issue (LITTLE ARCHIE #20). The ARCHIE ANDREWS title would be cancelled as of issue #114.

These were titles that they weren't going to be offering in a subscription ad, because they had to know they were on their last legs. That being the case, having editorially assembled the contents for these issues already, rather than cancel them outright and just not bother to send them to the printer, they might have been experimenting to see whether the best way to reach the target audiences for at least some of those titles was through direct mail-order sales, since the smaller number of consumers ordering directly by mail might well have different tastes in what they wanted in a digest than the casual consumer that purchased digests by the normal retail route. So perhaps they just had the printer print up what would be (compared to normally-distributed digest titles) a relatively small print run, strictly for mail-order sales. Maybe you could get those "Available Through This Ad Only" titles in comic book shops, and by mail from ACP, but nowhere else, like the normal newsstands, retail stores, and supermarkets.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2016, 05:41:46 PM by DeCarlo Rules »

rusty

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2016, 08:05:14 PM »
Those digests were definitely available in comic book stores since that's where I purchased mine.  I agree with Steve in that it was probably a way to try to sell some earlier digests that they had in stock.

The comic store I worked at from 1986-2005 built up the kids section in the late 90s.  I placed several orders directly from Archie for various Archie back issues to build up our stock of Archies for sale.  It worked for a while and we saw decent sales (not Marvel/DC numbers mind you, but better than before).   The Archie titles started to flag after a few years, though, and we ended up with more overstock.  Archie had lots of issues still in their inventory back then dating back to the early 1990s (and maybe earlier) in some cases I think.  I think I dealt directly with Fred Mausser at the time.

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2016, 12:08:20 AM »
But all of the individual issues (including some that were going to be on sale soon) were very recent issues... and you don't see the same sort of ads for random issues of digest titles that weren't close to the cancellation line. They might have felt it was better to cut back the print runs of those [Available Through This Ad Only] issues, NOT distribute them to the returnable market, and keep the remainder of the print run (after direct/non-returnable distribution to comic shops, which wouldn't have amounted to much compared to the returnable market) in-house.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 01:09:17 AM by DeCarlo Rules »

steveinthecity

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2016, 01:39:04 AM »
But all of the individual issues (including some that were going to be on sale soon) were very recent issues... and you don't see the same sort of ads for random issues of digest titles that weren't close to the cancellation line. They might have felt it was better to cut back the print runs of those [Available Through This Ad Only] issues, NOT distribute them to the returnable market, and keep the remainder of the print run (after direct/non-returnable distribution to comic shops, which wouldn't have amounted to much compared to the returnable market) in-house.
I'm trying to wrap my head around this one point at a time.  "Available Through This Ad Only", or ATTAO,   :) what does that mean exactly?  Was there a difference in the advertised book and the one in the marketplace?  That's why I brought up the direct vs. newsstand editions of that book. 


Were the ATTAO books in such low reserve they used them mainly to create a hype element to the offer?  Were any ATTAO books that remained after the ad ran it's course dumped into ACP's regular bulk back issue program?


I think step one is determining what (if anything) made the LA #20 & Betty #2 books offered unique. Do we know if there's both a Direct and Newsstand edition of LA #20? Were all digests offered to the market in both newsstand and direct only during that timeframe?  I'm not certain how common that was with digests.



Comics!

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2016, 02:33:56 AM »
But all of the individual issues (including some that were going to be on sale soon) were very recent issues... and you don't see the same sort of ads for random issues of digest titles that weren't close to the cancellation line. They might have felt it was better to cut back the print runs of those [Available Through This Ad Only] issues, NOT distribute them to the returnable market, and keep the remainder of the print run (after direct/non-returnable distribution to comic shops, which wouldn't have amounted to much compared to the returnable market) in-house.
I'm trying to wrap my head around this one point at a time.  "Available Through This Ad Only", or ATTAO,   :) what does that mean exactly?  Was there a difference in the advertised book and the one in the marketplace?  That's why I brought up the direct vs. newsstand editions of that book. 


Were the ATTAO books in such low reserve they used them mainly to create a hype element to the offer?  Were any ATTAO books that remained after the ad ran it's course dumped into ACP's regular bulk back issue program?


I think step one is determining what (if anything) made the LA #20 & Betty #2 books offered unique. Do we know if there's both a Direct and Newsstand edition of LA #20? Were all digests offered to the market in both newsstand and direct only during that timeframe?  I'm not certain how common that was with digests.

I don't think ATTAO had anything to do with the books being on sale in the direct market. Two of those titles had advertised on-sale dates, the other three were marked as ATTAO. Obviously they could not advertise on-sale dates for any titles that were ONLY available through the direct market (comic shops) and through mail-order from ACP. The vast majority of the readers seeing those ads would expect to see the digests on sale wherever they usually got their Archie digests (supermarket, retail bookseller, department store, etc.).

There was a crucial difference with the direct market because those were the only retailers who bought from ACP on a NONreturnable basis, but in terms of numbers of copies distributed by that method, it was a drop in the bucket compared to returnable sales. Direct market sales were SAFE, a done deal, bought and paid for when ordered by the distributor from ACP (based on retailer demand). The normal digest retail distribution scheme was a crap shoot, since the publisher could never know what to expect in terms of the percentage of credit he'd have to allocate to retailers for unsold copies. Therefore, credit for unsold copies could totally make a title unprofitable, whereas that was not the case with direct market sales. Mail-order allowed the publisher to keep an even greater percentage of the cover price for himself, and the issues were never past their 'display until' date for in-house mail-order stock.

That said, ALL of the issues in that ad were 'current' issues, not backstock, and ALL of the titles would wind up being either cancelled with that very issue, or within another 3 issues. THAT is what makes this ad stand out. You just don't see ads for individual issues of digest titles like that. What you DO see (later) is listings of nearly every title that ACP published, and checklists of every issue from a given year, or a checkmark box to select an entire year's worth of issues of a given title. The only other ads I can recall with single issues of selected titles were for the 48-Page Giants, usually appearing shortly BEFORE the on-sale dates, but with NO 'ATTAO' notice on any of the titles.

What I'm seeing here is that the two (out of five advertised) titles that were given announced on-sale dates were ARCHIE ANDREWS... #112 and ARCHIE'S STORY & GAME #39, both of them titles that were longer-running (by nearly twice the longevity of LITTLE ARCHIE, or five times), and both titles which featured as the main character (regular, teenage) Archie. As such, I think that ACP was willing to distribute those by the normal method alongside the long-running standby digest titles, and take a chance on credit for unsold copies, while they weren't willing to do that for BETTY, VERONICA, and LITTLE ARCHIE's digests. In essence, I think this point in time is when Archie digests first began to feel the pinch of the contracting market for returnable distribution, and they were playing around with the idea that they might be able to sell certain titles only by the direct market, and the even MORE "direct" method of mail-order. Sure, there are innumerable examples of ACP house ads selling back issues, but none of them ever have the ATTAO marker on the older stock -- generally they'll say something like "Still Available!" or "Did You MISS This One?", and generally those were for special crossover stories or mini-series or one-shot specials, not random digest issues.

My theory here is that ACP was toying with the idea that they might create a new sales model for lower-tier titles IF they met the following criteria: (A) Lower-frequency titles like Annuals (Veronica's Digest, Betty's Digest) or Quarterlies (Little Archie Digest); and (B) They had lower print runs, with ZERO return credit issued (direct-market and mail-order sales ONLY). All I really need for someone to disabuse me of this theory is for ONE person to step forward and say, "No, I've been reading the digests for over 20 years, and I can tell you I got Betty's Digest #2/Little Archie Digest #20/Veronica's Digest #5 at my local 7-11/Piggly Wiggly/Paperback Booksmith, where I always got my digests". Or even the somewhat vaguer-sounding "Well, I never ordered anything from ACP through the mail, and we didn't even have a comic book shop in my town, but somehow I managed to buy a copy".
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 05:20:26 AM by DeCarlo Rules »

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2016, 10:10:20 AM »
Okay, just by chance I noticed another ad, this one is from VERONICA #56 (Oct. 1996) -- so, slightly over a year earlier than the ad I mention above. Anyone want to guess which titles it spotlights individual issues of... ?

ARCHIE ANDREWS WHERE ARE YOU DIGEST #108 [On Sale in Sept.]
ARCHIE'S STORY & GAME DIGEST #36 [On Sale Now]
VERONICA'S DIGEST #5 [On Sale in Aug.]
LITTLE ARCHIE DIGEST #17  [On Sale Now]
BETTY'S DIGEST #1  [On Sale in Sept.]

The exact same titles. Just a few issues earlier (or only one, in the case of Veronica's Digest and Betty's Digest, which were published annually, despite not being called "Annual"). But not a hint of "Available Through This Ad Only". We can probably assume that this October cover-dated issue of VERONICA was on sale in July or early August, so that would place the "Now" of "On Sale Now".
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 10:15:15 AM by DeCarlo Rules »

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Serious question for the long-time digest readers...
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2016, 04:18:22 PM »
Well, it appears I have solved my own mystery. With reference to the ad mentioned in the immediately preceding post, it appears again in VERONICA #58. I admit after looking closely at the ad in #56, I just glanced over the one in issue #58 the first time around and assumed it was merely repeated from a couple of issues prior, but now I see that they did alter it by changing the text in the little yellow bars stuck over the cover images:

ARCHIE ANDREWS WHERE ARE YOU DIGEST #108 [On Sale Now]
ARCHIE'S STORY & GAME DIGEST #37 [On Sale in Nov.] - and it's issue #37, replacing issue #36 from the previous ad in issue #56.
VERONICA'S DIGEST #5 [Available Through This Ad Only]
LITTLE ARCHIE DIGEST #17  [Available Through This Ad Only]
BETTY'S DIGEST #1  [On Sale Now]

So it now appears from comparing the two ads, which appeared in the October and December 1996 issues respectively, that "Available Through This Ad Only" does indeed appear to be a euphemism for the more commonly-seen "Still Available". I admit my future knowledge that all of these titles were doomed to cancellation in a few months' time led me to make a false connection there.

What's weird is that the ATTAO banner does seem to appear only on these ads for shortly-to-be-cancelled digest titles, so that's still somewhat confusing, given that skimming through the issue I can see other house ads for back issues of the 48-Page ARCHIE'S CHRISTMAS STOCKINGs and SABRINA'S HALLOWEEN/HOLIDAY SPOOKTACULAR/SPECTACULARs, and all of those ads for the floppy format comics still say "Back issues still available!"  or "48-Page Specials Still Available!", rather than "Available Through This Ad Only". So why were the lower-selling digest titles treated differently in ads? Apart from the floppy comics, I still haven't seen any ads from this mid-1990s period selling individual issues of anything but these or other short-run digest titles... it's never an ad for an issue of JUGHEAD JONES DIGEST MAGAZINE or BETTY & VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST, just the digests that only came out annually or 3 or 4 times a year. Maybe the only point here is that these titles (even though they might be annuals or quarterlies) didn't stay on sale until the next issue arrived at retail outlets, like other digest titles did, and when they were past their "Retailer: Display until ______" date, ACP wanted to let the readers know that while they could no longer buy them from the regular outlets, ACP still had them in stock and available.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 04:28:26 PM by DeCarlo Rules »

 


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