Are Magazines Getting Bookish?
Are newsstands the dinosaurs of distribution? Don’t tell that to U.S. News & World Report. Although focused on building a strong digital business, the publisher is committed to using this time-tested means of putting its print products before the masses—though in an innovative way.
At the Publishing Business Conference in March, Mark White, vice president of specialty marketing at U.S. News, spoke about his company’s marketing of bookazines— hybrids of books and magazines that hold promise for publishers looking for new ways to reach niche audiences with repurposed content.
Bookazines combine all that people find pleasing about magazines—the glossy pages, beautiful photos and easy-to-read layouts—with the permanence, niche appeal and price-point of books. As White noted, an empty-nester couple looking for recipes is more likely to pick up a special edition of Cooking Light magazine focused on cooking for two, rather than the monthly magazine, which may have one article on that topic.
In a presentation entitled “11 Rules of Bookazines—and Why We Broke Them All,” White redefined what these products can mean for legacy magazine publishers.
Bookazines, White said, are normally defined as products sold exclusively on newsstands for impulse buying, outside the normal publication schedule, with little or no advertising (and no rate base). While enjoying a longer shelf-life than magazines, they are available for a limited time only. They are traditionally seen as not suitable for libraries, bulk sales or controlled distribution, and are normally spinoffs of a subscription magazine.
U.S. News has a number of bookazine products, including annual guidebooks based on its popular rankings: “Best Graduate Schools,” “Best Hospitals” and “Best Colleges.” It also publishes special editions on topics such as “Amazing Animals,” “Secrets of Your Brain,” and “The Real Jesus.” Challenges to newsstand distribution (including the loss of Borders Books as a sales outlet and declining numbers of trips to supermarkets in response to high gas prices) have led U.S. News to go from a “newsstand-only” to “newsstand-plus” strategy. The publisher sees more than 15 percent of its bookazine sales from non-newsstand sources (Amazon and the Web) for some of its titles, and plans to expand sales channels to include e-editions (launched recently on Nook), bookstores, historic sites and science museums. Two of the annual rankings guidebooks are offered on newsstands for nine months instead of the traditional three.