When surf magazines used to burn DVDs for kicks!
Life is an unending river with a different surprise around every corner. An enigmatic puzzle, a puzzling enigma.
And you want to know what really cracks me, a vet of five different print mags from surf to men’s interest (porn) to gossip, up?
It’s the faith in which we hold the paper magazines despite their lack of transparency (sales) and influence (advertising). At face value we accept the magazine’s own inflated sales and circulation figures and the success of its static advertising.
But there is no secret about surf magazines more hidden than the great DVD bonfires of yore. Y’see, back around the turn of the century, the sales of paper mags plunged once DVDs got into the market.
Who wanted photos and dreary words when you could push yourself back into a couch and get all the surf y’needed? And the surfing magazines, realising this, soon began packaging “free” (it actually upped the cover price by a couple of bucks to pay for the raw costs of burning the discs) DVDs onto their covers.
The big surf co’s were happy at this turn because it meant they could make, say, 50,000 DVDs, give ’em to a magazine with a circulation of 50k and they’d have a home for their promo discs.
Such a touching naivety! The childlike innocence!
I remember once pitching for the DVD of a major surf co. and being told they were going to give it to a certain surfing magazine that targeted “youth” because they could shift 40,000 of the co’s DVDs.
I’d worked at that magazine and knew it sold between 4,000 and 9,000 magazines, closer to the former than the latter. What could I say? I wasn’t going to throw the mag under the bus (journalists in arms!) but I knew what was going to happen to 30,000 of those DVDs.
They arrive in a large truck at the printers. The printer who is altered to the unfortunate mismatch of numbers takes 12k or whatever the print run is and sets ’em aside, ready to be bagged with the magazine.
The rest are burned with incredible precision and discretion. The printer, and the magazine, know that a bonfire of 30,000 DVDs would likely take down the warehouse with it, and so they are disposed of in lots of one thousand, every second or third day.
Cremation is the only solution despite its toxic payload. The DVDs can’t be dumped because what would happen if an official from a surf co. found thousands of its precious movie scattered over a dirt hill amid the detritus of mattresses and Ikea furniture and broken toys?
Over my career I can estimate almost half-a-million movies, from the very bad to the iconic, ended in flames.
If that doesn’t make your spirit wilt, wait until you hear about the circulation figures. Next month!