Saturday, April 30, 2016

What’s Your Loot? Remember Book of the Month Club?

If someone handed you a box and told you there’s loot inside custom chosen just for you.  What would you imagine the contents would be?

[Books perhaps?  All your favorite genres?]
When you were a kid, did you ever wish your birthday came more than once a year?  How about once a month? 
Ready to commit $20-150/month to have unexpected goodies with a theme mailed to you every month?  It’s the new book of the month club.  They are subscription boxes. And I’m not talking about the Dollar Shave Club.
These little monthly “gifts” offer a general smattering of items each month, gear related to your interests.

[Like a book you choose because of your interests.  I remember my father getting Books of the Month-The Godfather, The Happy Hooker, Joy of Sex.  I wonder if he had a secret life.]
One of my sons has rated wine choices in his monthly delivery. The other son has, on top of that, delivered goodies targeted toward hipster guys-Bespoke Post.  Among other funky, foodie items, he got gourmet salts and squid ink which he used to take his homemade pasta dish to the next level.  He chooses from a short list, but many of these subscription services offer boxes of awesomeness filled with random surprises.
[like a great book!]
The possibilities are endless now that buying on line is standard practice and shipping costs are negligible.  We’re talking about year-round Christmas for all ages.

[Do we not love to go into a bookstore and browse, collecting a handful of stories we hadn’t planned on getting?]

There’s Birchbox for guys, delivering a monthly selection of grooming and lifestyle products, from face cleaner to bow ties.

Awesome Pack thrills big kids and families with board games, plush toys and activities.

Some subscription boxes are higher end--$100 and up--like Wil Wheaton Quarterly Co. curated by celebrities, style experts, authors and bloggers. You might even open up to a Dungeons & Dragon starter set.  Carrots for new parents surprises with books and toys for $120/box. 

Some are more focused like TeeBlox and Once Upon a Tee targeting fans of Doctor Who and The Legend of Zelda with officially licensed t-shirts; Brick Loot specializing in building items like legos; for college kids, a care package with snacks and household items called Pijon; BarkBox for dogs; NatureBox for snackers [popular with high Coloradans?]; Tasting Room for wine; and Kiwi Crate for 3-7 year olds who like craft projects. And one I would have loved as a kid, Tinker Crate, for older kids’ science projects.


The trend seems to be all the rage among geeks and gamers, who have flocked to Lootcrate, 1Up, Geek Fuel, Geek Me Box, ComicBoxer, Star Wars Smuggler’s Bounty, Nerd Box.
Power Up Box, HeroCrate, Super Loot ZBox, Comic-Con Box, IndieBox. Super Loot and ZBOX from Zavvi and VillainCrate.
[Really want to invite VILLAINS into your house?]
What do the Geeks and Gamers who pay for them get?
[Just like a book, they have to crack it open and dip in.]
What the Geeks can expect to find:  South Park gear, Nintendo exclusive t-shirts, Marvel, Star Wars, DC Comics and Pokemon figures, prints and figurines, and Horror Collectibles
[…which made me wonder if it all the elements are legal.]
These thingies of the month clubs are not companies unique to the U.S.; if you are in Australia, you can order up Box 51 and Epic Crateness.  Hero Box.  
My favorite company name is Bento Box.... clever.

They claim to use a panel of experts to pick comic issues around a theme each month, that the value of each box is at least $60. But the monthly rates: $20 (1 mo.), $18.34 (3 mos.), $17.50 (6 mos.) Shipping:  $5 in the U.S. / $12 to Canada
Some are aimed at female geeks:  Fan Mail from who you may receive a Spider Man necklace and a Superman Comic, Gamer Girl Monthly (which offers exactly what it sounds like),
Instead of reading about your favorite manga or movie character, you can wear him in the form of a t-shirt.

Friend Alicia Howie enjoys her $20/month with S&H subscription to one of the most popular subscription box companies, Lootcrate, especially her Labyrinth t-shirt.  I wonder if Merle Haggard and Prince have t-shirts in any company’s box of loot this month?

What would be in your ultimate loot box?  Mine would definitely have gourmet food items, books, yellow pads, and a great pen.

      --- Inkpots

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Grain of Salt

Claire Walters, a local writer specializing in travel and food brought up a topic on the Boulder Media Women loop that caught my attention: those articles you see in magazines that don't appear to be paid advertising but are. You may, for example see an actual paid-ad off to the side of the article.  At the very least the article itself touts the product and gives contact info. The point is, the article would likely not be in the magazine if the exposure hadn't been remunerated.  YS and Boulder Lifestyle are two local examples.  But companies like Subaru and chambers of commerce have them in the form of official visitors' guides.  You have likely read many of these articles that aren't marked as advertising.  They are essentially quid pro quo. 

Our local magazines are full of advertorials. If it's not the actual point of the magazine, it's a matter of survival. I take all profiles of restaurants and other local businesses with a grain of salt (the origins of that phrase is interesting). If it weren't for these pseudo-journalism stories I might not have otherwise known there was such a person/restaurant in our midst.  I'm all about capitalism.  Though I'm unlikely to buy based on advertising, I might do the research to see if I'd like to know more.

You could say this is on the ethical edge. Sponsored content is deceptive to the extent it doesn't announce what it is....just as a variety of TV media pretend to be news. There will be readers who don't understand the difference, just as there will be people who trust the biggest ads in the yellow pages, assume a billboard is proof of value, and that Mikey liking his cereal is an endorsement.
And BTW "a grain of salt" was part of a poison antidote. Threats involving the poison should then be taken "with a grain of salt," with skepticism.
How do you feel about articles that are really paid advertisements?
--- From the Inkpot