Three Steps to Better Industry Health, from a Display Manufacturer
Here's a three-step call to action, courtesy of Doug Forrestal, president of Ry'le Co, supplier of corrugated displays to magazine publishers:
One: Entice our readers through calls to action
Two: Tell our story to inspire our partners
Three: Share our resources through literacy initiatives
"The magazine industry needs a new look, a new image, a facelift," Doug told me in a recent conversation. "We look miserable. We need someone out there who will speak to what we have in an impassioned way -- who will say 'Look, we've got a viable product.' I think John Mennell can help with that."
John Mennell is the founder and impassioned spokesperson for Magazine Literacy, and from time to time I get calls from people who are inspired by his fervor to get involved in any way possible. Mennell's got initiatives with the homeless, the unemployed, and Native American communities; he's got magazines shipping to the Arctic Circle and to cooking schools throughout the country.
Doug' s business is display -- display of all kinds, but in particular, magazine display. I've worked with him off and on since my early days in magazine publishing, but I hadn't spoken to him in quite a while. "We're still in the same place, still chugging along," he said in response to my inquiry about the corrugation business. "Magazines still make up a significant portion of our corrugated display sales. And magazines are still a passion of mine. I work with the Revlons of the world, the big package goods companies, and that means working with agencies, with packaging people. Our magazine business is hands on. You work directly with the people, the publishers. It's rewarding. I love it"
It seemed to me, I observed, a tricky moment for magazines in general, and for off-rack displays in particular. Was Doug seeing, I wondered, a fall-off in floor display placement, due to the increased costs of getting the product to market?
"It ebbs and flows; but you're right, we're in an ebb tide now," Forrestal replied. "People are cutting back on corrugation because of the cost of handling. People ask themselves: how can they afford the premium display? On the other hand, if you don't create a compelling display, how are you going to move product?
"We can't let our business go," he continued. "It's too important, too precious. Even today we have a system that can deliver 4,000 titles to every retailer across the country. How impressive is that? No other industry could do this. But we've allowed it to get out of control, and now it's slipping away. If we let it go, where will we all go?
"So we have to keep it. And to do that, we have to ask ourselves: what are we doing to entice people to browse the aisle? We've created racks with no signage areas. No signage! Where is the invitation, the call for action? So that's one: display. We have to improve display; and along with display we have to add signage. We have to provide that call to action. No call, no action.
"And two," he continued, "We have a story to tell. What this business brings to people, that's irreplaceable. I had a friend in school, a very bad reader. A teacher told him to go home and pick up a bunch of magazines and read them over the summer. He came back that fall a reader. Improved skills, yes, but more important, he had discovered the magic of reading."
Doug sees an opportunity with Mennell's project. Magazine Literacy provides new and used magazines to children throughout the world in hopes to increase literacy. "We have to share that story," he said. "We have to get the word out. Magazine Literacy can help with that. It gives kids entertainment, education, and a career path. All through magazines!"
I have spoken with Mennell several times about his project, I told Doug, and I agreed that hearing from him was always an inspiration. But with so many projects out there, so many priorities, what was it, in his mind, that made Magazine Literacy stand out?
"The first lady tells us to focus on the kids," he replied. "How better than to focus through literacy? This is something that could be visible on a national level, at the presidential level."
So in conclusion, I asked, what is Doug's own call to action in the magazine community?
"The three steps I mentioned-reach out to the readers through signage and display; remember the story we have to tell; and share what we have through Magazine Literacy. I've told John he's got my support," Doug concluded. "He finds the magazines to share for Literacy. I'll provide his displays."
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.