The Magazine Newsstand Crisis Cries Out for Action
Last week my friend, Baird Davis, wrote an article titled "The Transforming Consumer Magazine Business Has Not Been Good to the Newsstand." If you missed reading it, I suggest that you do so as soon as possible. In my opinion, it is necessary, sober and bold coverage of the state of our newsstand business.
A month ago, I wrote about the MPA-PBAA conference, at which Condé Nast's Bob Sauerberg called for an end to the downward newsstand sales trend saying we have to stop the decline by having all supply-chain partners working together. He went on to say everybody must have a role to play in fixing these problems.
Sadly, this "work together" plea has been ignored by our industry for as many years as it has been in decline and is still being unheeded. Baird's essay to the publishing community is a definitive call to action and a reaction to Hudson News' President Ron Clark's statement, also at the MPA-PBAA conference, "If something doesn't change, we'll be flat out closed."
Does anyone think Ron was kidding? I do not. Let me ask you this question - at what point is an on-going business trend considered the new on-going reality? Listening to Bob's, Baird's and Ron's comments, I continue to be critical of our industry's lack of intensive, active leadership in solving these problems.
I am concerned that, even at a 50% loss on the newsstand in the last 5 years, nothing appreciable has been done to correct the tide of changes. It appears that every player in the industry is waiting for the other guy to do something meaningful. Unless we take drastic steps now, we will be looking at this trend a little differently a few years from now. I suggest that we are going to find that the current, pitiful numbers of 2013 made 2013 a peak year for newsstands, and we will be striving in vain to achieve those lofty stats in the future. The truth is that newsstand will never get back to where it was pre-depression, and the big question is how are we going to keep now what is left?
Is there any real reason to expect a change in these numbers for 2014 or 2015? Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, we will not solve our newsstand problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. As Baird writes "neither publishers nor their key newsstand supply-chain partners, have been fully realistic in evaluating its effect on newsstand sales."
Revenue: Down 38 percent to $2,010.6 million Unit sales: Declining 11.2 percent annually
Revenue: Declining 9.1 percent annually
Industry Paid Circulation Level: declined from 278 million to 234 million - a drop of 16 percent, 3 percent annually.
Newsstand Circulation: declined from 49 million to 27 million - down 45 percent, 11 percent annually.
Subscription Paid Circulation: declined from 229 million to 209 million - down 8.6 percent, 1.5 percent annually
Number of Audited Titles: declined from 556 to 397, down 29 percent
Advertising Revenue/Pages: Advertising pages have declined 32 percent and it's believed that revenue has fallen by an equivalent amount.
With all this gloom and doom talk about the newsstand, we must remember that these are industry averages and that there are many single titles and publishing groups, that buck these depressing trends and are doing very well on the newsstand and will, in all likelihood, continue to do so. But, a word of caution is necessary here, too. If the overall newsstand continues to plummet, even successful titles will find it harder to work with the declining infrastructure.
That being said, I am still very bullish on the publishing industry. It is and will continue to be a very profitable industry with new revenue streams being created every day.
However, newsstand sales will never be what they were, and perhaps that is the best lesson we can learn from this analysis.
As I see it one of two things can happen, the industry finally listens to Bob Sauerberg and Baird Davis's call for a unity of action or Ron Clark's statement, "If something doesn't change, we'll be flat out closed." will actually happen.
It is your choice, Mr. and Ms. Publisher, What are you going to do? As Yoda said- Do or do not. There is no try.