Spanish newspapers have an unusual way of promoting sales. Instead of lowering subscription rates (no one subscribes, anyway), they create little gifts to lure buyers while they're standing at the kiosk. Often these gifts are the first book or DVD in a series--"Great Historical Novels"; "Nature Documentaries"; "Breads of the World"— but they can also be "fasciculos" which are a few pages in a book that you then slowly put together yourself in a handsome binder also provided by the newspaper. And sometimes the gift is a collectible that it's hard to image anyone wanting: miniature clocks, fake antique toy cars, tea cups.
In any case, you get the first one for free. After that, the thinking goes, you'll be compelled to complete the series, paying 6.95 a week for your tiny timekeeper or your few pages on marine biology for the next 145 weeks. And of course you have to buy the paper. But apparently, it works: the papers spend far more money advertising their giveaways than they do advertising, say, the quality of their journalistic content.
Today, the freebie with El Mundo was the Lonely Planet guide to Rome, first in a series of some 30 city guides to come. As giveaways go, this was a good one, so I bought it, as did the woman in front of me at the kiosk. Which launched the kiosk guy with the badly-dyed hair (three people work there now: the dyed-hair guy who is always smoking; the tall, mildly crazy guy who occasionally mumbles things I can't understand; and Antonio, the reticent owner. Antonio's dad used to work there too; he was my favorite) into a tirade against us. He lambasted our weakness in the face of nefarious capitalist techniques, and denounced the evil empire of newspaper publishing that could so malevolently lure innocents into buying things they didn't want. He knew, of course, that neither I nor the other woman usually buys El Mundo. "You've surrendered," he cried.