Publishers Should Expect Major Newsstand Shifts in 2016
Most of the 2016 predictions for content publishers that I’ve seen predict continuations of trends that have been going on for many years: shift to mobile, more use of video, continued loss of sales and revenue at retail, adaptation to ad blocker technologies, and so on. Fair enough -- we’re barreling in that direction, and there’s no reason to think we’re going to change direction this year. But you already knew that, didn’t you? No need to anticipate what is, for most of us, current reality.
On the other hand, there are changes that have already happened -- but not yet hit. Those changes are going to define print publishers’ reality in 2016 in a concrete and definite way. And yet, many publishers haven’t yet prepared for these changes, or even realized they are taking shape. Here’s what to expect:
- Your newsstand reports are going to look different. Wholesalers have already begun shifting their accounting systems to accommodate scan-based-trading, and in some cases not even they know quite what this will look like in terms of final accounting and reporting. But in at least several very dominant instances, inventory received at the agency goes onto the affidavit, and gets subtracted from it as sales are scanned at retail level. That may mean that your newsstand reports will look more like a sales flow than a returns flow, with the sales numbers rising instead of falling week over week; or it might mean that your returns hit earlier than ever before. However it falls out, it will create ripples for every publisher paying attention to newsstand, and in some cases those ripples have already begun.
- Your newsstand accounting will take a temporary, but significant, hit. Off-invoice RDA, the new norm, means, in practical terms, that your up-front remit will drop noticeably, and the RDA debits applied to final issues will go away. This might, in the long term, be a blessing; but for publishers not currently offering universal RDA -- and some are still out there -- the financial hit could be lasting.
- Print publications will be more gorgeous than ever before. As news, gossip, and entertainment are so easily enjoyed online, expect to see more “paper goodies” launched: publications that are beautiful, interactive, and surprising. These publications will offer the kinds of experience and interaction that are not available online. Examples you will see in 2016 are publications that include worksheets, planners, or a continuation of the adult coloring experience; publications whose experience piece includes community and events; and publications that connect on every front: in print, online, and in real-world goodies, gifts, and events. And yes, we’ve been doing multiplatform for years, but publishers are getting really good at it, and we can expect to see it continue to blossom in the coming year.
- Publishers will be taking ownership of newsstand choices. They’ll be forced to. With the rise of national wholesalers, national distributors are not able to advocate for their publishers as completely as they have in the past. You’ll be seeing more direct relationships with wholesalers and retailers, and direct agreements negotiated by publishers.
- New publishers will increasingly bypass wholesalers and distributors to establish non-traditional distribution channels. Smaller publishers need to find ways to monetize smaller audiences. Given the combination of low efficiencies and high expenses in the traditional newsstand distribution channels, publishers with new launches of specialty publications will be unable to afford the costs. You will see, increasingly, new and innovative publications for sale primarily in specialty outlets and stores that can be reached on a direct basis.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.