Rethinking Newsstand Sales: Magazines, Money and Mobile Blinders
David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, believes that people crave "spontaneous combustion" from their media purchases. "We live in this on-demand world," Carey elaborates. "There's nothing more satisfying than going to the newsstand, [browsing] by a subject area that you're passionate about, and you literally own it right then. You take it home, and you get to devour it."
Newsstand sales exceed $3 billion, and magazines are sold at more than 100,000 retail spaces across North America. Single-copy magazine sales are critical to the industry's future prognosis. The newsstand, in its many retail manifestations, often provides insight into trends in magazine sales and how to best target magazine readers. The picture, however, is often bleak.
John Harrington is a partner in Harrington Associates, publisher of The New Single Copy newsletter and the annual Magazine Retail Sales Experience. "Newsstand, single copy, retail magazines - whatever you choose to call it - is sick," Harrington affirms. "Sales are down more than 40% in five years, and the decline is continuing. Retail dollar sales . . . are below what they were in 1993. Beyond that, the wholesale level is financially distressed, and then some."
Joe Berger of Joseph Berger Associates, a circulation marketing and consulting firm in Chicago, agrees with Harrington: "The present status of single copy sales in the U.S. is, at best, tenuous." Much analysis about the declining vital stats of newsstand sales has revealed numerous contributing factors, and left publishers pondering if the trends are irreversible. Everyone from CEOs to copy editors can cite causes for the newsstand's declining health, but few offer viable remedies. Yet a close look at some of the crucial issues related to newsstand sales points the way to a brighter outlook.
Disparity in Distribution
Luke Magerko is a 20-year publishing industry veteran who spent a number of years at Meredith Corporation and with wholesaler Independent Direct Distributors before his venture into the publishing arm. Most recently, he founded The Market Analytics Project, which compiles and interprets actionable data analytics for publishers, vendors and retailers.
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D. is the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He is also Professor and Hederman Lecturer at the School of Journalism. As Mr. Magazine™ he engages in media consulting and research for the magazine media and publishing industry.