Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 3 of….(The Down Under Edition)

One of my favorite apps on Twitter is Tweeps Map, a handy little add-on that will show you where on the globe your followers come from. You can imagine my pleasure and surprise to discover that almost 30% of my followers come from outside the US, with more than 8% of  them based in the UK and Ireland. Another 3% are from Australia.

For many years I’ve been a fan of foreign magazines. I particularly love the ones I see from Australia. The Australian Twitter followers most likely came from the interactions I have had promoting my client, Juxtapoz Magazine – a title that sells rather well on that continent.

As you’ve probably guessed, the previous two posts, “Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack” were highly tongue in cheek. Yes, I want retailers to stop cluttering their mainline and checkout displays.

Want a basketball hoop with your Rachel Ray?

However, I thought that my reach would only go only so far.

So my admiration and appreciation goes to our Aussie allies and in particular to Steve Sharman, the proprietor of Carrara Village News on Australia’s Gold Coast for his quick response and continued dedication to moving merchandise.

I received this message from him via Twitter Monday afternoon:

If you’re on Twitter and you want to know how an independent news agent in Australia gets things done, you can follow Cararra Village News @StevieSharman.

He’s also on Facebook. I urge you to “Like” his page: Carrara Village News and check out the eclectic and interesting magazines he features.

Now, any American based retailers who want to step up and follow this retailers lead?

Things Placed In Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 2 of…. (And One More Thing)

If I were a more fair minded person, I’d stop picking on this particular retailer. But this week, I was presented with a trifecta of bad. Perhaps even St. Thomas Aquinas would have had trouble holding back.

Hope you weren't counting on selling anything out of that tower.
Chocolate and magazines surely go together. But is this the best way?
Seriously? A buyer spent corporate money for green colored beach balls? And "they" write snarky editorials about the newsstand business?

I can be fair though. It’s my understanding that certain union rules keep the local wholesaler’s merchandiser from setting up the store. For those of us in the business who would then counter with, “Well, why doesn’t the route manager go in and work with the store merchandiser and manager”? Good question. My guess is that that has happened. Probably a few times.

In keeping with this week’s calendar, there’s only so much even St. Jude can do.

In other news:

I was hopeful last week that we were going to evade the latest round of ABC Audit reports with minimal breathless reporting on the certain demise of newsstand industry. Clearly, I had been spending too much time on the port side of the foredeck admiring the waves.

Audience Development Magazine published a column from former Ziff Davis VP of Circulation, Baird Davis that suggests that “the newsstand is nearing endangered species status”!

Still? Aren’t we dead yet?

Of course, this was picked up and distributed by Bo Sacks.

Davis does point out many disturbing trends in the latest round of ABC numbers. And it is helpful to have that staring at you in black and white. But for those of us who work on the front lines, it’s nothing new. We already knew, and the people we report to already know, and the people we work with in all avenues and all channels of the marketplace are aware.

Which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t or can’t report on what he reports on. It’s just that there’s little here that is new or helpful.

Like many people who have reported on it, Davis suggests that the recent purchase of Comag, the formerly joint national distribution venture of Hearst and Conde Nast by national magazine wholesaler, The News Group could be a positive thing. He and others have suggested that it may bridge the divides in our business and lead to better channel cooperation. Maybe between News Group and Comag. But I have yet to hear a serious explanation of how this will solve our industry problems.

Publisher’s consultant Linda Ruth, also an Audience Development Magazine columnist makes a more interesting and perhaps correct assertion that “on one level we have a massive paradigm shift here, on another it’s business as usual.”

The article wraps up with a call to our industry leaders, especially the largest publishers such as Conde Nast, Hearst, Time/Warner and others, to work together to solve the “dangerously viral” condition of the newsstand industry.

OK. How?

I must confess that I often make this clarion call myself. While I am alone in my office. With the dog out of earshot. And then I come to a “Full Stop”.

How do we get the major circulation directors of the major publishers into a room to decide the fate of a  multi billion dollar industry? Moreover, do they have the right to determine the fate for all of the participants in that industry? Can I be assured that the end result will be fair to the smaller, frequently still profitable players in the business?

“Full Stop”

On the other hand, please remove your chocolate bunny dump bin from Aisle 3. Thank you. Oh, and take those green beach balls with you too.

Things Placed In Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 1 of ….

There is an excellent interview with New Single Copy partner John Harrington in Media Life today and I strongly urge you to go and read it. In the interview, Harrington cites the  economy as a key factor in the continuing decline in newsstand sales that everyone and their uncle likes to write about. He also points out that aggressive subscription marketing, digital initiatives and a weak wholesaling environment contribute to the softness in sales.

In other words, as all of us who work in it know, it’s not just one thing.

Will the newsstand make a comeback as the economy improves? Harrington muses that it’s possible. But only if publishers and wholesalers and retailers make a combined effort to remind readers about the “excitement and value of magazines. Especially at retail.”

Check out the interview here.

During a side trip through a desktop folder this morning, I realized that I have collected a fair amount of evidence that suggests another reason for the decline in single copy sales. It isn’t too many titles in one category, heavily discounted subs, the shift to digital, or the digital side putting some sort of voodoo on the print side over at corporate.

It’s too much sh*t getting put in front of the magazine racks.

Item 1:

For your consideration....

Yes, tongue is firmly planted in the cheek as I write these lines. This topic does get covered regularly in this blog and seeing as how I have named this writing effort after a famously unsinkable ocean liner that ran into something and then sank, well….

“Things Placed In Front of The Magazine Rack” will now be a regular feature with regular updates. So pull out your cell phones, smart phones, iPads and Android tablets, snap away, and submit your best evidence of “Things Placed In Front of the Magazine Rack” to newsstandpromos at gmail.com.

If I get enough entries, I’ll name a lucky winner at the end of the year. Now how can you resist that?

Obsolescence Revisited

There’s a drawer in the hutch in our family room that contains eight different cell phones we’ve retired over the years. The plan is to donate them. But first I have to get around to recharging and reseting them to “factory restore”. The phones range in age from a much loved Nokia VGA candy bar to a entirely unmissed, unloved and happily retired  Windows Mobile phone.

Down in our basement are two old Windows XP towers that kind of work. Before I haul them off for recycling this month I need to strip their hard drives out. Lying on the floor next to them are two newer HP laptops with fried hard drives. What is it with Vista and fried hard drives? Hiding in a corner somewhere, is my very first desktop: An Epson Equity IIe. I wish I knew what happened to my first love: A Toshiba T1200 HD.

Where are you? The "luggable" Toshiba laptop. (Source: PC-Museum.com)

The genie is out of the bottle and we’re well on our way into the age of digital reading. eBooks, digital magazines, the merger, melding and colliding of how we used to read and how we got that content is already here. No, I don’t see any evidence that all bricks and mortar stores are going away. Nor do I think that print magazines are obsolete and will wind up like buggy whips and mens spats. But the world is very different. Sort of.

Is Flipboard or Editions the Reader’s Digest of the 21st Century? Does an eBook written by a “fan” and given away for free have the same value as the latest from Grisham or Picoult?

These musings started when I began cleaning out some drawers in my office last week. I came across an old CD of a “Sonic the Hedgehog” game that came with a long ago recycled Win95 machine that came home when the daughters were very young. We spent hours playing and mastering that game and kept at it right though updates to Win98 and 2000. When WinXP came along, we could no longer play the game. Even deeper in the drawer were a stack of 20 floppies that compiled the original “All in One” program, “Open Access IV”, that managed my business on the old Toshiba back in 1988. And below that, a cracked and brittle floppy drive from another much loved game, “D-Generation” from Mindscape.

One of the best computer games ever. Sonic CD (source: forums.macrumors.com)

Which got me thinking, of course. If all of these games and programs are long gone, what does this spell for digital books and magazines (and newspapers)? What happens when the iPad7 update is not backwards compatible? Will there be a time when app developers decide not to create something that works across platforms? What happens then if you’re on iOS, Android, Blackberry and whatever the latest incarnation of Windows Mobile  and the app you need isn’t available? What if a major e-retailer like Amazon went belly up and their cloud disappeared?

Interestingly enough, a few minutes on Google showed me what could be a slice of our future. You can still play the Sonic CD game and download it onto your computer. Moreover, it’s available on gaming platforms. Not surprisingly, I can also download the D-Generation game and make it work on my Mac via a handy little program called Boxer. If you ever struggled with with DOS commands or early versions of Win 3.1 or 95, you’ll appreciate the boxing gloves icon that loads onto your dock.

What am I getting at?

My original thought was that as we develop our technologies, a lot of things will be left behind. You could argue that there are many novels, newspapers, magazines and letters from earlier generations that have decayed into dust and are long gone. You’d be right. And much of what we’ve saved may never make it into digital libraries.

On the other hand, it took decades, perhaps hundreds of years for all that print to decay or simply get lost.

I learned in less than an hour that I can play some of the old games. Not everything gets lost or left behind. But there’s a lot of data from the ten years that I did manage to use on a DOS based “All in One” program (with a hell of a lot of ‘work arounds’) that, as far as I can tell, is lost, inaccessible, or at least, not easily accessed. How much more is gone, and gone for good?

Will this be the future of reading? Of viewing? Of listening?

The basic e-readers are pretty simple to use. But the goal of the manufacturer is to lock you into their store. How flexible is that? The newer tablets serve multiple purposes, which is cool. But it’s tech. It’s all about the tech.

At some point, that tech becomes obsolete. And then what?