There is no time left to talk about the need to change and 13 other things I’ve learned from the PBAA’s 21st Convention…

June 30, 2007

Just came back from the very successful Periodical and Book Association of America 21st Annual Convention in Philadelphia. It is amazing to see the efforts this one organization puts into bringing magazine publishers and distributors together to discuss the issues that matter to our industry. Most of the discussions took place on one to one round tables thus providing real answers to real issues. Some of the highlights of this year’s convention that I have observed:
1. There is no time left to discuss the need to change. Even if we start today we are already late.
2. The industry must work as a whole to promote magazines to the retailers. Magazine companies must look beyond their individual titles and try to unite to promote the industry. As many in the audience told me, PBAA is the only organization that really can tackle those issues. The other leading magazine organizations do not care that much about newsstand distribution or promoting the magazine to the industry.
3. Unless a major shift take place and the industry as a whole change from an advertising driven model to a circulation driven model, attention to the newsstands from the major players will continue to be minimal.
4. There is a consensus that we cannot continue to do the same thing over and again and expect different results every time. That is how the Chinese define insanity.
5. Some wholesalers are moving, rather fast, into the direction of a fee-based distribution system rather than the traditional consignment system for new titles. There is serious debate whether that will hinder or help the magazine industry considering that almost half of the big sellers on the newsstands are less than 20 years old.
6. Reducing the number of copies placed on the newsstands by one wholesaler have not effected the total number of copies sold… however there is a major debate whether it is too soon to judge this “draw reduction program.”
7. As a result of the above one wholesaler will reduce the amount of magazine units on the newsstands this year by 130 to 140 million units than last year. Yes you read that right, there will be 130 to 140 million copies of magazines less in 2007 from 2006 on the nation’s newsstands. That is the action of one wholesaler only.
8. There is a need to make the magazine category as whole more profitable, more efficient and more attractive to the retailers.
9. New magazine publishers have to factor into their business plans distribution cost. These costs have never been a factor in the calculations of any business plan for a new magazine. The game has changed.
10. The big debate at what price can a distributor make money was challenged by a lot of the attendees who counter pointed that if a candy bar manufacture can make money on a 30 cents candy bar why can’t a magazine distributor make money on a $1.99 cover price.
11. Our problem is not in our medium; it is in the content that it carries. We need to be relevant to our audience and give the audience the relevant content via the relevant medium.
12. Digital editions of magazines are good and dandy, but they are more like a television channel than a magazine. The good ones are not competition to print; they just are a different medium.
13. The biggest absent from this convention was any representation, on the panels or in any of the discussions, from the biggest magazine industry organization (you know who), but to say I am surprised will be a big lie. If they are not willing to take a hard look at the real pulse of this industry, circulation and mainly single copy sales (think postal rate increases among many other factors hurting subscriptions) and do something real about it (not another wasted ad campaign) their presence and need to the majority of the magazines in this country will continue to be marginalized. (Point of clarification: none of the PBAA directors or officers critiqued or mentioned any other organization. I am talking about attendees representing magazine companies, distributors, wholesalers and retailers).
14. On a personal note, Bob Sacks and I survived our boxing match, and print is still alive, kicking and well.
For more info about the PBAA click here. Next year’s convention is going to be in Baltimore. If you care about newsstands and single copy sales plan on being there. I promise you it is worth every penny you will spend. A great return on the investment. Thank you Lisa and José for a great convention.


One comment

  1. The big debate at what price can a distributor make money was challenged by a lot of the attendees who counter pointed that if a candy bar manufacture can make money on a 30 cents candy bar why can’t a magazine distributor make money on a $1.99 cover price.

    Samir. I copied your comment because I think you know better than that. The candy manufacturer ships in cartons of 30 cent bars (probably without a middleman). The retailer buys them non-returnable, does the merchandising, and in fact sets the price. I haven’t looked lately, but are there actually 30 cent candy bars? If so, I’m sure the manufacturer’s costs, including shipping and racks, if supplied, are well under whatever the cost per unit he sold them to the retailer at.

    Not quite apples and oranges, but certainly magazines and candy bars. Unfortunately, some publisher actually believes stuff like this? But, I don’t really think you do. Right?

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