Newsstands should not be used as a “promotional tool…”

October 7, 2008

I could lie and say that I was surprised by a comment from John Loughlin, executive vp, general manager, Hearst Magazines at the current American Magazine Conference in San Francisco. Media week reported that Loughlin “said that if the current trends continue, magazines could be facing a time when instead of 1,000 titles, 200 or fewer are on display in stores, depriving the industry of critical promotional opportunities. The situation, he said, speaking on a panel, “is unfortunately incredibly fragile.”‘

To me, that is the heart of the single copy distribution problem in this country. The majority of magazine companies in recent years started to treat the newsstands as anything but a source of revenue. Even when Bauer Publishing reinvented the use of the single copy sales by introducing the right-priced publications, Bauer was faced by “the forces of the industry” to back off their right-priced magazines.

I just wished that our magazine industry leaders will wake up one day and start talking solutions rather than doom and gloom and predictions that will continue to add to the ills of the industry. Yes, the situation maybe dire out there, but if the leaders are going to join the “slugfest” who is going to offer the solutions?

I invite our industry leaders to go and visit some of the newsstands in Germany, Holland, Finland, Estonia, Japan, the United Kingdom just to name a few and try to count the number of magazines being distributed there on the newsstands. Count the numbers, check the prices and the use of the newsstands to promote the sale of the copies on the stands. Our efforts should focus on ways, prices, etc. to move magazines on the newsstands and not the opposite. I am sure that many of our industry leaders still recall the days when magazines such as Family Circle, Woman’s Day and Cosmopolitan were sold only at the newsstands. Subscriptions to the aforementioned magazines cost more than buying them on the newsstands. Those were the days when the newsstands were a good source of revenue, and not just a “promotional” tool to show off your magazine to the 50+ customers who reside on Madison Ave. rather than the 1,000,000 customers who reside across this great country of ours.
To sample some of the industry bailout programs click here and here.

One comment

  1. BoSacks Speaks Out: John Loughlin, executive vp, general manager, Hearst Magazines says: ‘If the current trends continue, magazines could be facing a time when instead of 1,000 titles, 200 or fewer are on display in stores.”

    Well, everybody who reads my newsletter knows that I think in the near future the predominant way that people will read will be digitally. But that doesn’t mean the end of print. No, not for a long time to come. I think perhaps Mr. Loughlin has forgotten what it is like to be a scrappy entrepreneur. The future will be filled with printed titles, but it won’t be the same market that he is used to. Nor will the business models be the same. There will, by necessity, be short run, specialized and, most likely, expensive magazines. But they will be there. It is/will be cheaper to reach the world digitally, but printed products still have life and the entrepreneurs to help maintain their existence.

    I have several friends who own magazine printing companies. Recently in conversation with one of them I was asked if I thought his children would be able to continue successfully in the magazine business. Yes, I replied. An efficiently run printing facility will be a good business, with shorter run titles and plenty of make-readies to profit by.

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