It’s the Business Model, Stupid. The Three “Real” Reasons for Single Copy Sales Decline…February 12, 2012
Too many reasons have been attributed to the decline of the single copy sales in the last few days. Some experts said the economy, others said the technology and some said folks are not shopping out as much. However, I feel that most of the media reports may have missed the real reasons for this decline. Being a student of the newsstand and one who spend thousands of dollars every year buying magazines on the newsstands, I have boiled down the reasons for single copy sales decline to three:
1. High cover prices: The average cover price for a new magazine is almost $8.00. More new magazines are arriving at the newsstands with extreme specialization and very few pages. Take a look at the magazines on the right of this copy. This is just a few of the magazines that I purchased from the two newsstands on Saturday. I spent $125.79 at Books.A.Million and $173.88 at Barnes & Noble for a total of 33 magazines (keep in mind that my prices are discounted 10% since I have the membership saving cards at both places). The average cover price for the magazines I bought was $9.08. Some of the prices were as high as $14.00 and $17.00. It does not take a genius to figure out that shoppers on the newsstands are not going to buy five or six magazines at $8.00 an issue. At those prices, folks who used to buy two or three magazines for that price are now buying one magazine instead.
2. Too many options: Some years back choices were limited. If you were looking for a stamping or scrapbooking magazine, you were able to select between two or three titles. However now the options can be as high as 50 titles in each category. From gardening to quilting to tattooing more titles are bombarding the newsstands and making it harder and harder for folks to make a choice. They spend too much sampling those title and by the time they are done, they got their full. Combine that with the higher cover prices, and you can kiss the sales goodbye. Visiting a newsstand and observing what goes on the shelves will actually help those pundits who theorize from their ivory towers about the magazine marketplace. Sometimes I wonder if they have ever visited a newsstand and paid the full price for a single magazine!
3. Very very low subscription prices: Add to that the ridiculous subscription prices where magazine publishers are still going out of their way to serve the dying advertising business model for the magazine business. Feeding the beast called “advertising centric business model” is pushing some publishers to offer their subscriptions at extremely low prices (some yearly subscriptions are almost the price of one single issue on the newsstands). Take a look to the right at the latest subscription offer that I received yesterday. Or better yet, just visit any newsstand and take a look at all the sub-offers’ cards inside the pages of the magazines with subscription prices discounted up to 93% of the cover price. How long can we continue to take the single copy buyers for granted and how long can we continue to signal to them that they are stupid because they are paying a lot more for the same magazine on the newsstands.
So, before we blame the economy, digital, or the web, maybe we should, once more, take a good look at the magazine business model and try to do more than just pay lip service to the single copy channel of the magazine business. Also, I truly believe that the single copy buyer is getting smarter and is recognizing the game magazine publishers play. It is payback time. Stop buying from the newsstand. To paraphrase a famous presidential campaign slogan, “It is the business model, stupid.”