The British are coming… This time they are coming armed with Knowledge for “the curious mind.” Whether it is science, history or nature the first issue of the BBC Knowledge magazine does indeed offer a wealth of knowledge. Andy Benham, the magazine’s publishing director said in a press release that “the magazine has been poistioned to capitalize on the strength of the BBC’s brand in the U.S. and while the content will feed American interests, the Britishness and BBC-ness of the magazine are seen as being key assets, offering consumers a fresh alternative to what is currently on the market.”
Two things captivated me about the BBC Knowledge: the first is the variety of content and design that indeed sets the magazine apart of what is on the market. The mix of in depth stories and great stunning photography made me stop on every page of the 100-page premiere issue. I can feel the European flair of the magazine in every page, yet it also felt so American. A welcomed blend of that Euro-American mix that hopefully one day will find its way to more magazines and newspapers in our country. The second thing that grabbed my attention is the dependency on circulation rather than advertising to survive in today’s market place. It is something that I have been advocating for some time. The magazine carries a limited number of ads, but Benham comments in the press release that “our primary aim is to build a solid core of subscribers…we want to offer readers the best of BBC stories in the magazine while carefully considering the tone and quality of any potential advertisers.”
BBC Knowledge is indeed a breath of fresh air in today’s market place where more major magazine publishers are committing suicide with some of their magazines rather than attempting to adjust to the changing market place. Check BBC Knowledge here, buy a copy at the newsstand for $5.99 or order an annual (six issues) subscription for $29.95. Real prices for real content. Enjoy your imported knowledge for the week.
Archive for August, 2008
Yesterday I was interviewed on the Fox Business News’ morning show Money for Breakfast. Read what the show’s host Alexis Glick wrote about the show on her blog and watch the interview with me, Matt Kinsman, Managing Editor of Folio magazine and Dave Kansas, President of FiLife.com.
Click here to read and watch The Glick Report.
I have received more phone calls this week asking about the reasons single copy sales are down by 6.4% and subscription sales are up, thus keeping the level of circulation figures the same as the last six months. Well, I have decided to visit the newsstands one more time, and this time not to buy any magazines, but rather to collect the subscription cards (one of the major ills of our industry today) found inside the magazines on the newsstands maybe I can get my answers.
What I found, and this by the way, came as no surprise to me, is that what we used to call the “dandruff of the industry” has exploded to an extremely shameless effort of forcing the newsstand buyer not to purchase a magazine on the newsstands. My first pick was the newsweeklies. Newsweek has a hefty price for its current double issue of $5.95. I picked up the magazine and a card screaming at me, “you stupid Samir, you are going to pay almost six dollars for a magazine instead of sending four more dollars and getting the entire year for ten dollars!” I put the magazine back. The rest of the magazines were no different. I moved to the women’s magazine section, the same can be said about them, buy a year of Cosmopolitan and we will send you a year of Marie Claire, for less than two dollars, yes less than two dollars. The men’s magazines are no different. Buy GQ and we will send you Details, or buy Details for a mere $7.97 a year. The sports category offers no surprises either, a year of Sporting News start at 29 cents an issue (compare that to the $3.99 cover price), and so is the music category with Rolling Stone being sold at 33 cents an issue.
Take a look at the above wall of shame and ask yourself why newsstands are not selling as they used to in the “good old days.” Do you remember when Cosmo used to cost more to subscribe than to buy on the newsstands? Do you remember when Family Circle and Woman’s Day were only sold on the newsstands? Do you still see the success of the single copy driven Woman’s World? Try to ask yourself what can we do with a “numbers” driven model that worked for years, but is no longer working today? Our magazine industry is at a crossroads and unless we make the right choices we are doing to end in the graveyard of history. Magazines must and should start charging the realistic cover prices and subscription prices. For what it’s worth, here are few simple ideas for us to make the right choices:
1. Magazine subscriptions should not be less than 20 – 30% of the cover price. In fact we should sell magazine subscriptions as a service to the reader, delivering the magazine home, saving on gas and effort to go to the newsstands, etc. Think about any retail mail order business…sometimes you pay for shipping and handling a heftier price compared to the product itself.
2. Magazine cover prices should be slashed down. If you truly want your magazine to reach that single copy market why not selling at a fair price that does not scare the readers. Why should I pay $5.95 for a 72-page issue of Newsweek and $3.99 for a 400-page issue of GQ? It just makes no sense. Newsweek, Time and the rest of the newsweeklies should carry a cover price of no more $1.99 if they want the magazines to move on the newsstands. That will make them more competitive in terms of their subscription prices.
3. Stop chasing the numbers of customers and concentrate on customers who count. The first step in doing such is stop the rate base gimmick. You can’t anymore chase a rate base number and try to meet that number. Today’s customers are different and reaching those who count is much more important than counting them.
4. Go back to the business of selling content and not giving content away. If you value your content, you need to start making your customers pay for it.
So, next time you want to know why the newsstands sales are down, please do not blame the internet or the television or technology. Our problems are from within, and as long as we keep on burying our head in the sand our industry is not going to thrive and be alive.
Ladies’ Home Journal’s Sept. issue sports an interview with Michelle and Barack Obama with the picture of both sharing the cover of the magazine. Single copy buyers get an extra inset picture, with not so subliminal message, of an apple pie that readers can “rub and sniff” and the smell of the apple pie sends a wow through the senses of the customers. What can be more American than an apple pie? Well, you do not have to be a genius to add one plus one and the entire cover package is smelling like an apple pie. The subscribers of Ladies’ Home Journal have to be satisfied with the smell of ink on paper (and as much as I love the smell of ink on paper, I can’t write that the smell of ink on paper is as American as an apple pie…)
In my previous blog, I have asked the question about the coverage both Obama and McCain are receiving from the American magazines, well you can add this one to the Obama camp and you can keep on counting… My guesstimate is the score is at least 4 to 1 in favor of Obama. Have a different theory, please do not hesitate to comment.