Is Anyone in Control Here?
How many magazines fit on the head of a pin? Just a silly metaphysical question you say? Perhaps, but that question might have real significance in today’s magazine marketplace—specifically, the newsstand business and the seemingly unlimited amount of opinions and business models that are being discussed, dissected and, if you will pardon the expression, distributed among all the trades, blogs and water coolers of the publishing world.
I know you’ve heard the scuttlebutt before—the newsstand model is broken, or the newsstand has been flat for 15 years, or my current favorite, Samir Husni’s July 24 blog entry, “Wholesalers Are Not Dying … They Are Committing Suicide” (www.MrMagazine.com).
What the heck is going on, and is anyone in control here?
The simple answer is yes, but it isn’t you. The consumer is now in control. The best you can do is to try to gather a semblance of order (not control) and deliver the goods the consumer actually wants, on any platform that they want it.
What is it that the consumer wants? It’s what they’ve never had before: choices. And when I say choices, I don’t mean which of the 7,000 printed consumer titles they should buy, borrow or steal. I mean choices of media involvement.
It is this new series of endless mixed-media choices and the ability to be a member of a group drilled down to a niche of one that should be at the crux of all our publishing newsstand discussions. How can print publishers establish a viable and sustainable niche mentality in an increasingly selective and seductive electronic world, while at the same time becoming as cost efficient and accountable as other media?
This new era of communication has completely changed the old concept of mass distribution. Mass-produced, general-interest titles are dying right before our eyes.