Ocado and Fitness First wave goodbye to newspaper bulks

The great bulks rollback continues, with internet grocery service Ocado no longer giving customers a free copy of the Times, while gym chain Fitness First is no longer providing its members with free copies of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.
Both these companies were paying a nominal fee (possibly as low as 1p a copy) to give these papers to customers.
Mark Bentley, the Ocado head of customer services, apologised for the abrupt nature of the decision in a weekend email:

"We are writing to let you know of a change in our practice of including a copy of The Times newspaper free with Ocado deliveries.
With effect from the 18 January 2010 we will no longer be providing this newspaper to customers. We apologise for the short notification of this change in our service and any inconvenience caused."
(Hat tip to MediaGuardian.co.uk's production editor, Dugald Baird, for providing the email).
"We are no longer distributing the paper with Ocado deliveries to come in line with our strategic position on bulk deals," a Times spokeswoman said. 
"The Times and Ocado are exploring how to continue their partnership in other ways, however."
So shoppers who use Ocado, the home delivery service of Waitrose supermarkets, have instead been offered a free seven-day trial of the Times Online epaper, which costs £2.50 for a single issue, £8.99 a month or £89.99 for the year. Interesting to see how this fits with the Times Online plan to put itself behind a paywall later this year.
The latest ABC figures tell the story: the Times gave away 13,237 bulks in December, down from 47,242 in November, a drop of 34,005.
When the Ocado deal was announced in October 2008 Greenslade calculated that the deal added about 10,000 to the Times's weekly bulks figures. Thus the end of the deal would appear to wipe out almost all of the Times's bulk distribution.
And Fitness First and the Mail newspapers have parted ways as well. The Mail is putting money into its already vast promotional budget, with a successful X Factor scratchcard in December followed up by a Poirot and Marple DVD promotion this month. But it hasn't given up on the bulks habit just yet. ABC figures show that the paper distributed 100,591 bulks on average each day in December 2008, while by December 2009 that had grown to 128,139. Foreign "sales" have dropped by about 10,000 copies over the same period.
The chirpy receptionist at the Fitness First branch I called said that the deal had ended about a week ago and the chain was trying to negotiate with another paper. Given that most papers are cutting bulks, that leaves only the Independent titles, a good fit with the chain's clientele.
The chain's deal with the Financial Times will continue, she said.
TUESDAY UPDATE: Adrian Message, UK head of finance at Fitness First, said in a statement released a day after I called Fitness First: "Due to an increase in cost per paper, the volumes of the Daily Mail in Fitness First clubs have been reduced in line with each individual club's budgeted requirement. Our relationship with the Daily Mail continues."
I used to quite enjoy bulking up with Paul Dacre. Now it appears I will have to console myself by training with the Lionel Barber and possibly Simon Kelner instead.