Traditional American Newsstands Are Dying … So What?March 14, 2014
Another traditional newsstand shuts down in America. This time it’s One Stop News in Washington D.C. For 25 years it served as a haven for print editions, plopped supremely in its location just blocks from the White House.
For years now, we’ve been hearing how changing American habits, namely the encroachment of everything digital and society’s embracing of it, has slowly been choking the life out of all the traditional newsstands across the country. And maybe, to certain extents that claim holds a merit of validity.
However, it is more to the point to say that changing societal trends and factors that we hadn’t counted on years earlier play a bigger role in the traditional newsstand’s demise.
When I first came to the United States in 1978, newsstands, almost without exception, shared the retail space with tobacco shops. Whether it was in downtown Denton, TX, Columbia, MO or Memphis, TN. Those stores sold any number of tobacco products along with their print offerings. From cigars to cigarettes; tobacco and print at the newsstands went hand in hand. Most of the magazines at those traditional newsstands were sex magazines, or as they were known at that time men’s sophisticate titles.
Of course, in today’s world and with what we know about the dangers of smoking and tobacco products, most people refrain from what was freely enjoyed decades ago. And that’s a good thing.
Sex sold on the newsstands too in days gone by, and it sold a lot. Those newsstands were in fact the only place that offered, displayed and sold tens of different sex titles. In the last twenty years alone new launches for sex magazines declined from a high of 110 titles a year to a mere four titles. Quite a drop when you consider the content at most traditional newsstands across the country relied on sex and tobacco for a large part of their consistent revenue.
Small Mom & Pop newsstands have felt that decline for years and rightly so. And with non sex magazines being sold in other venues, department and grocery stores everywhere; the combination doesn’t make for much of a future for the traditional corner newsstands.
So to blame American audiences for turning to digital as the only reason newsstands are shutting down is not only a misinformed outlook; it’s also completely untrue.
The real question today is not whether digital is killing the traditional newsstands, but rather is there a need for a traditional newsstand?
With sex reigning king and queen (and free of charge) on the web and all tobacco products, with no exceptions, being a danger to your life, the real surprise is not that yet another newsstand is shutting down, but rather why are those newsstands still in business today?
The only hope in this slow demise of yet another American institution is that digital natives and immigrants alike will continue to know the true joy of standing in front of an array of printed material at supermarkets and grocery stores with that wide-eyed feeling of excited expectancy as they discover something they never knew they were looking for until then. Of course, this adventure now has to be sans-sex and sans-tobacco! Who can say that this is a bad thing? No one indeed!
The traditional newsstand is dead. Long live the new newsstand.
So stop crying, wake-up, and smell the roses. There are much better places to browse and to buy magazines at the nation’s state-wide retail stores. Go buy a magazine, relax, grab a glass of wine or iced tea and let the reading begin. Enjoy the weekend. It is much better with a magazine or two in your hands. All the best.
© Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, 2014
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