The American Newsstand: The Solution, in a Nutshell…

August 22, 2013

Reading the headline above may leave you thinking, “There’s a solution to the magazine industry’s newsstand woes? Why haven’t we fixed this a long time ago?”

If only the solution was that simple. But like a tough nut, there’s are many layers to the issue that must be cracked, peeled away, before the real meat is revealed and relished.

And with this article, I think we’ve been doing that, peeling away the layers, one at a time. All of the industry veterans quoted in this article have their own experiences and track record to back up their opinions and perspectives. We must take these, along with the thoughts and ideas of many others, and like a jigsaw puzzle piece them together so that the picture becomes clear and comprehensible.

A recent panel discussion at the MPA/PBAA Retail Marketplace brought together top magazine executives focused on retail channels. They all agreed on the importance of these channels and discussed their views on how to stunt the decline in sales, while maximizing the potential and profitability of the print product.

Hearst’s President, David Carey, spoke about the “mobile blinder” factor plaguing the newsstand: “Hopefully, the improved economy will translate into increased visits to stores. And the magazine category needs to work with the retail community to find a solution to the mobile blinder factor. We have to co-opt that experience at the front of the store with magazine content and promotional innovations that employ digital and mobile technology.”

Chairman and CEO of the Meredith Corporation, Steve Lacy, pointed out that Meredith’s recently acquired all-digital brand allrecipes proved quite popular. Approximately 25-percent of the 25 million unique visits per month were generated right in store aisles, as shoppers looked for recipes and ingredients information. As a test, Meredith took one of its food special interest publications and put the allrecipes logo on the cover. This yielded a 40% retail sales lift, Lacy reported.

“This is a digital consumer, and she’s also very interested in the print that ties this all together. Our greatest corporate lesson in the last year has been to figure out how to connect those dots and help our advertisers sell product to her when she’s right there in the supermarket. Everything that we’re seeing indicates that Gen Y is very engaged in these brands on every platform, from mobile to print.”

Condè Nast’s President, Bob Sauerberg, encouraged a “getting together” of the powers-that-be.

“We have to stop the decline,” Sauerberg said. “This industry has brands like no other, it has assets like no other, it has editors and consumer marketers like no other. And we’ve all accumulated incredible digital assets that I think will really help us grow. We’ve got to work together to ‘product-ize’ those things, to get to retailers and really move the needle.”

Skip Zimbalist, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media (AIM), agreed that retail will continue to be vitally important.

“AIM is redoubling efforts to get into specialty retail stores serving the same consumers that AIM titles serve, such as equine and boating,” he said, “and if it’s Vegetarian Times, to be in the section where soy is sold.”

Gil Brechtel, President and CEO of MagNet, offered these “nut-cracking” strategies:

• Spread the message;
• Drive sales, instead of focusing on cost reduction;
• Publish good, quality content – something the customer will pay for; and
• Bring the major components of the newsstand: publishers, national distributors, wholesalers, and retailers together in a collaborative effort to grow sales.

So what do you think? Can we save the American Newsstand? Let me know what you think and stay tuned.



  1. […] his recent post “The American Newsstand: The Solution, in a Nutshell,” Sami Husni (aka Mr. Magazine) presents a range of opinions from top magazine execs, expressed […]

  2. Mr. Magazine,

    First of all, your blog is great! I’ve enjoyed reading it recently, and I wish I could afford to attend the ACT Experience.

    Hearing this inside line from magazines executives mirrors what a lot of futurists have been saying, and I think it would be important to bring them into our conversation.

    In short, a lot of people are predicting a “free digital” future, where because it’s possible to get almost any media for free (books, magazines, music, movies) people are less inclined to pay for anything.

    This being said, when they do pay, it’s not because they have to – it’s because they want to.

    I agree with these execs, that we should provide something the web can’t. However, if our readers actually feel like they’ll get something from print, they’ll be more likely to make that purchase, even if they could technically get that information somewhere else.

    Our brands are more important than ever, and I think we should look closely at identifying and engaging our consumer base.

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