Newsstand Promotions: A Cornerstone to Publishing Success
Normally one would ask a question in the blog title: “Newsstand Promotions, Are They Necessary?” or “Do We Have to Promote on the Newsstand?”. I really don’t think this is a question at all; promotions are a crucial investment in your magazine.
In the past I’ve written about the importance of cover design and the proper use of “buzz words” to sell the contents of a new issue; how bright colors and large type on a cover reach out to browsers on a newsstand rack with potentially 5,000 other magazines wanting to be picked up by a consumer.
However, no matter what category your title is in, you are competing with titles outside of your category. That’s why newsstand promotions are an indispensible tool for drumming up greater interest in your title.
Embrace Premium Offers
Internationally, magazine circulation in most countries is handled very differently than the U.S. and Canada. It is considered a profit center and rate base is not the primary focus.
- Subscription pricing is not discounted. Some even add postage to the cost.
- People are driven to the newsstand to buy the magazine or to pick up their subscription copy.
- Premiums are used quite frequently to boost sales, and size is not a restriction — beach bags, beverage coolers, even garden hand tools are tipped onto covers to increase sales.
Premiums, usually polybagged, have been used very successfully in the U.S. and Canada for many years. None have been as aggressive or creative as the U.K. or Australia, but title-specific polybags have increased sales substantially.
In my experience, when Fly Fisherman offered a 4 X 6 laminated fly tying how-to card in one issue, we saw sales increase by 50%. A target of a deer in Bowhunter tripled sales for our ABC audited issue each year we polybagged it. And a how-to garden design booklet increased sales of Country Journal. What worked with each of these premiums is they were targeted to the needs and interests of the readers.
But polybags can also hurt a title.
Remember in the 1990s when every magazine had a polybagged AOL disk? The average newsstand looked like the back of a dry cleaner’s shop, plastic bags everywhere.
What worked to boost newsstand sales became a burden to the retailer and the consumer.
Polybags can still help, if done selectively and with purpose. A client of mine has sales increase with periodic polybags which increased net sales as much as 35% to 80% in the first 6 months of 2016.
We work with the retailer to increase allotments to get the biggest return on investment, and pull back allotments for the next issue to maintain profitability.
More Than Just Polybag Promotions
National Wholesalers and your distributor can introduce you to a variety of in-store promotions but you as a publisher need to assess each promotion and see if it is right for you. If you’re a niche literary magazine, do you belong in a feature title promotion in supermarkets, or is your targeted audience more of a bookstore shopper?
There are many different types of promotions offered by Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million for their bookstore patrons. There are feature title promotions, where your title is positioned on the front of the shelf in your category. And there are end cap promotions, where your magazine is displayed, full cover, on a free-standing fixture to reach out to shoppers who do not necessarily go to the magazine rack or the section you are displayed in.
Years ago Books-A-Million and one of the titles I represented ran a test. We placed copies of a history magazine in a pocket in the military book section. These copies had a unique in-store BIPAD, and we sold more copies in the book department than the magazine rack. We assumed this success was due to the fact that military book buyers traditionally do not go to the magazine section (and did not know that there were military magazines), and they bought what we displayed. This is now a regular promotion program in the Books-A-Million chain for different categories.
Supermarkets have programs that work for you as well. In Canada, the newsstand buyer is more like a European buyer. Promotions in chains like Shopper’s Drug Mart, WalMart Canada and Loblaw’s (a supermarket chain) do very well for magazines from all categories, but do your homework:
- Get competitive history for a chain. Do titles in your category do well in the chain?
- Can you select specific regions or markets in the chain where you are focused?
- What is your distribution post-promotion? Do you maintain a presence in the chain? This is very important if you had good sales because of the promotion.
Budget for Regular Promotions
There is a value to budget for a promotion in specific chains, even if you have decent unit sales and sell through percentages.
Will a promotion increase your penetration and visibility in the chain? Again, if your sales are generated on the mainline only, could having a special pocket open your title to new buyers and new audiences? Chances are you will add to your market.
John Morthanos is a circulation consultant specializing in niche and
special interest publications. He was Vice President Specialty Sales at
Curtis Circulation Company, Vice President Single Copy Sales at Primedia
Special Interest Publications and Cowles Magazines, Circulation Director
at Viare Publishing, and Circulation Marketing Director at Ziff Davis