Eight years ago today I officially took over Grape Vine from John Lock, who was retiring after producing it for 12 years. In fact the changeover was spread over several weeks, with both February and March issues worked on by both of us, but we needed an official changeover date for the tax people so February 12th it was.
I've just been looking back through my first issue, from March 2005, and am amazed at just how much comping has changed in a relatively short time.
For a start, almost every competition in that issue had to be entered by post. Online comping was already well established, but it was a completely separate hobby from postal comping and the two seldom overlapped. If a competition was on a pack label, there was never a "go to the website and enter these details" option - the label, lid or bottle top needed to be posted, often causing difficulties with items such as greasy butter wrappers and sharp bottle tops, not to mention those entry forms on plastic bread wrappers which were always so hard to write on! Only a small handful of the competitions listed could be entered by text message; even one for mobile top ups had to be entered by post. Facebook comping was unheard of, and instant wins always involved opening a pack to see if there was a winning message inside. And unless there was a tiebreaker, every competition had to provide a "No Purchase Necessary" entry route. When it comes to Twitter, Blippar, Pinterest, Instagram.... these simply hadn't been dreamed of, at least not by compers.
Because of the prevalence of postal entries, the index of entry forms to look out for ran to three pages - and this was in the spring, when traditionally there weren't many forms around. From early summer to Christmas, the list would have been four pages long. And the number of tiebreaker competitions! There were 15 closing that month alone, plus three pages of winning tiebreakers from previous competitions. So far for the March 2013 issue I have just ONE tiebreaker competition listed, and with tiebreaker competitions so few and far between there are seldom any winning tiebreakers published.
Some things haven't changed though. It's great to see that many of the comping clubs listed, as usual, inside the back cover, are still going strong and that Winn Sommor is still producing her fiendish annual booklet. And it's interesting to see that in that first issue I included a rant about automated entry services..... only last week I posted something very similar.
Nostalgic compers often say that there aren't as many competitions about these days - well, there were just over 50 listed in the March 2005 Grape Vine. In the February 2013 issue (I'm still writing the March one of course so can't use it for comparison) there are over 150. The reduction in the number of entry form competitions and tiebreaker results has left lots of space to fill with competitions, and I seldom find myself needing to fill that space with chatter!
The big changes to Grape Vine itself have been the update and the blog. On handing over to me, John suggested that I should discontinue it as only about 15 people took it. They had to send in stamped, addressed envelopes and received it by post. I set up an email list so that people could receive it free by email, and now just about every Grape Vine subscriber takes it. It is crammed with new, short notice and potentially low entry competitions and every month I hear of readers winning lovely prizes from it. I know that for many of you, the update is now the most important feature of the magazine. And it keeps getting bigger and better too - often now it contains more competitions than the whole of one of my early issues of the magazine did!
As for the blog, it is here for everyone and not just Grape Vine subscribers. Compers, promoters or people looking for help with Twitter and other apps are all welcome here. I don't make any money at all from the blog - I don't charge promoters to list their competitions and I don't accept any advertising. But I hope that reading my blog will be a great help to my existing and future subscribers. If you don't already subscribe, why not give it a try? You can get the magazine and the famous update for only £13.50 for three months. Just one very small win in that time would mean it had paid for itself! See the "How to subscribe" page for more details.
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net