News From The Future
by Felix Chartae
15 April 2029
The Economist reported today that Simon Freshette, a fellow at the London School of Economics believes he has located the sole cause of gigantic global economic meltdown that has plagued the planet for the past decade.
“It was Road Rider Magazine”, says Freshette. “They didn’t sell their last copy.”
Freshette, a dual PHD holder in Economics and Audience Development from MIT and Oxford explains: “On December 31, 2018 at 8:15 AM, a delivery truck from Millennial News pulled up to the loading dock of the local Walter’s Kroh Super Discount store in Tulsa, OK. Millennial News was the last distributor of print magazines in the US and Canada following the fourth consolidation of magazine distributors in North America in 2016.”
Video cameras at the back of the now abandoned strip mall show that at 8:20 AM the driver stepped out of the cab, went around the rear, and picked up the one tote for his delivery. Cameras inside the store picked him up checking into the storage room a few moments later and then moving towards the front of the store. At 8:25 AM the driver arrived at his destination. A checkout fixture located in Aisle 22t. A full view of the display rack was not possible from the camera feed, however. It was blocked by a large Valentine’s Day display in front of the rack.
Professor Freshette has pieced together what happened next.
“You have to remember that by this time, there was really only one magazine publisher left in North America with print magazines available for single copy sales. It was as if everyone had forgotten how the publishing business worked.”
That publisher was the company formerly known as AccentA (tm: An LLC for the 21st Century Reader!). AccentA was created out of the mergers and multiple bankruptcies of Time/Warner, Conde Nast, Hearst, Wenner Media, Bonnier and MidWest Bowhunting Media. In 2014, AccentA purchased Road Rider Magazine, a 30,000 circulation print publication dedicated to fat tire trail riding on the West Coast. AccentA paid the publisher, Toby Wellenstien $124 million in today’s deflation adjusted New Taiwanese Euros for the publication and it’s related digital content.
Reached via Skype Classic, Mr. Wellenstien reported that he was happy with the deal. “They had the money, I had the magazine,” he says.
Professor Freshette continued the narrative: “You must also remember that publishing industry consultants had produced studies that said that 87.65% of all single copy sales occurred within the first 18 minutes and 27 seconds of display. So by that time, retailers placed a premium on displays that lasted longer than 19 minutes. Publishers adopted these reports and were all too happy to pay the money. At the same time, magazine wholesalers were placing a high value on sales efficiency and were charging publishers a premium if the magazine did not achieve certain efficiency targets. By this point in 2018, Road Rider was all that was left.”
Cameras show the driver standing next to the closed checkout lane with a digital stop watch, his tablet and portable shredder. For the next twenty minutes, several shoppers walked past the checkout lane, but none peered around the Valentine’s Day display at the magazine rack.
“I remember really liking those chocolate bears when I was a kid,” says Professor Freshette. “We got them here in London too at our local Walter’s Kroh store but they were polybagged inside ‘Today’s Doggie’ Magazine.”
From 2016 to 2019, ‘Today’s Doggie’ Magazine was one of the last five publications available at newsagents throughout the United Kingdom.
At 9:15 AM Tulsa, OK time, the driver (who has since been identified as James Simpson III), put away his stop watch, removed the copy of Road Rider from the rack, scanned the UPC code into his portable hand held scanner, then powered up his portable magazine shredder and shredded the copy.
This simple act created a tsunami of economic events that took Professor Freshette two years of digging to sort out. We got the Professor to explain the chain to us in simpler layman’s terms.
“Fees,” said the Professor. “Everyone piled on. Walter’s Kroh, you remember, charged the wholesaler an efficiency fee and the publisher a display fee. The wholesaler turned around and charged the national distributor an efficiency fee which the publisher had already authorized the national distributor to accept. This ate into the publisher’s advance from the national distributor, which essentially meant that the publisher owed the national distributor and the retailer a lot of money.
And don’t forget,” emphasizes Professor Freshette, “ The publisher, the national distributor, the retailer and the wholesaler were all highly leveraged. None of the them really had any cash. And the publisher actually owned the national distributor through a Polish subsidiary and was an investor in the wholesaler and was a major stock holeder in the retailer. It was like they were all incestuous cousins.”
We pick up the story at 9:30 AM when the retailer received the automatic credit to their account from Millennial News informing them that the copy they had been invoiced for twenty minutes earlier was unsold and returned for full credit. Walter’s Kroh then invoiced the publisher for the display and the wholesaler for the efficiency fee. The wholesaler passed the efficiency fee onto the national distributor who automatically charged it back to the publisher.
“The final two straws that broke the camel’s back,” said Freshette ,”Was the prepaid retail display allowance and the Scan Based Trading fees. AccentA didn’t have the cash to reimburse the national distributor. The national distributor hadn’t been paid by the wholesaler because he was so leveraged from purchasing him competitors in the last consolidation. Walter’s Kroh was also heavily leveraged, why else were they charging all those fees for racks that didn’t have product on them? Once they fell, well,” shrugs Professor Freshette, “They took down the whole economy.”
We reached James Simpson III, now retired and living in an assisted living facility in Boca Raton, FL to get his views on his last days as a route driver for a magazine wholesaler and how he felt to be the person who helped facilitate the Great Global Depression which is now in it’s tenth year.
“Holy Smokes!” declared Simpson, “That was me? No way!”
“Well,” he said, after this reported pointed out to him that he didn’t really cause the Depression, he just delivered the product that caused the Depression, “I coulda got lost on the way and never made the delivery.”
“Hmmm, ” mused Professor Freshette, “The ‘No Delivery Fee’ would have done it too.”