The Ontario government is in the periodicals business, specifically when it comes to alcohol. Food & Drink magazine is a high-end, glossy, hard-copy publication distributed in LCBO stores across the province. Within its pages, beautiful pictures show food and beverages in all their sumptuous glory. On its surface, Food & Drink is a cookbook, wine guide, and a manual for home entertaining.
Every 60 days, more than 500,000 copies are circulated throughout the province, and every copy is seen on average by at least two people. This means that more than a million people check out each issue.
Now, most magazines sell ads. So does Food & Drink. Most magazines are sold, at newsstands and in shops. This is where things go out of form. Food & Drink is not sold. It is given away, save for back issues, which are sold online.
This is just one more way that alcohol is so interesting in this province. We have private alcohol-producing companies – wine merchants, brewers and distilleries – paying for promotion in Food & Drink, a magazine that represents the exclusive distributor of such alcohol and related products to millions of people.
Then we see that the LCBO (the distributor) has made the fascinating marketing decision to give the magazine away for nothing.
The articles and photographs inside Food & Drink are not produced for free. The writers of the content do not work for free. The advertising is not sold for free. But the magazine itself – it is free. Thus, we contemplate the mindset of the marketers at the LCBO, and the true purpose of Food & Drink.