Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 6 of…

No, I haven’t run out of things to write about. There is so much to discuss about the single copy business. Over the past few weeks I’ve received some some remarkably good material from correspondents around the country. It is nice to get these pictures and stories in a “I wish it wasn’t so” kind of way. It’s clear that my griping about things getting placed in front of magazine displays isn’t restricted to my little neck of the woods. But I guess I already knew that.

Consultant Linda Ruth of Publishers Single Copy Sales and Magazine Dojo was recently reviewing some magazine displays on behalf of one of her clients and sent along some of the things she witnessed. She also wrote a very engaging blog post on Magazine Dojo entitled, “Retail’s Failure to Honor Their Display Promise” and I encourage you to go and read it.

Strike One!

Part of the issue here is that store managers rightly have a lot of freedom to put displays where they see fit. They don’t have an enormous amount of room, magazines are at the front end, they’re already in pockets. For the most part store managers don’t have to worry about merchandising them and these one shot pre-packs need to go somewhere. So they go in front of the checkout.

As Linda points out, when pre-packs get stuck in front of a mainline, it’s the price we mainline publisher’s pay for just paying our discount and RDA. But the checkout is another animal because publishers pay discount, plus RDA, plus the rack construction cost. More importantly, it’s a three year commitment.

This would be way cooler if Barbie had made the front cover of People
Well, tea is low cal, but the aisle is closed so…

Barbies, wiffle balls and herbal teas are at best, a one week commitment.

The recent developments in the industry, most notably the purchase of Comag by News Group, the investment of Hudson News into the deal are supposed to be a “watershed moment” where we will see the elimination of overlapping marketing and distribution activities and a smoothing of the waters in the distribution channel.

From an accounting and staffing perspective, I get that.

Having all kinds of  junk dumped in front of checkout and mainline display space is nothing new – it’s been happening for years upon countless years. In the 21st century, though, it feels a little different. Magazines at retail are being challenged. Our distribution systems are fragile because there are so few avenues to market. All of them are stressed. Cost of entry has risen, not gone down.

Clearly we’re not making our case well enough to the retailers. Do they feel an obligation to maintain the space that our publishers pay a premium for? Our wholesalers are supposed to merchandise. Clearly our wholesalers are under pressure to get the job done and facing enormous amounts of competition for the space they do manage.

Years ago, the wholesalers used to maintain an industry trade group that tried to speak for them with one voice. Publishers and national distributors have IPDA, the MPA and the PBAA. There is a joint “Retail Conference”. Is it time for publishers, wholesalers and national distributors to try and speak for magazines with just one voice? Most of our disagreements are so much inside baseball. But the profitability of the product we represent is not up for argument.

Want some reading material on your picnic?

We need to do a better job engaging the retailer, checking up on our own distributions, and fighting for our space. How do we do this with circulation staffs and budgets that are shells of what they once were?

Increased “efficiencies” of all types is a noble goal. But ours is a sales oriented business.

Let’s sell something.

Titanic, The Magazine

Editor’s Note: Please scroll down to see a copy of the May/June cover of Archaeology Magazine. This issue features a first hand account from archaeologist James Delgado who has dived down to the wreck and discusses the changes in the wreck over the past decade. Archaeology went on sale last week and can be found at many Barnes  & Noble Stores.

Readers who are new to this blog may remember that I started writing about the newsstand business as a tongue in cheek response to what felt like an endless stream of “you’re all doomed” articles and blog postings about our shallow little inlet of the great magazine sea.

It never actually occurred to me until recently that I would have the opportunity to blog on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It would be a lie if I didn’t say it all felt a little strange.

So are there actual magazines out there covering the anniversary of the disaster? But of course there are. In our world, we cover everything. There is a niche for every niche.

This year, Smithsonian Magazine got there first with their coverage of the sinking of the Titanic in their March issue.

Where are the 3D glasses when you need them?

As a rule, I’m a big fan of illustrated covers and I love that this issue covered the story in a different way.

National Geographic has been on top of the Titanic story for some time and the April issue featured another illustrated cover with a startling portrait of the final moments aboard ship as she broke in two. The free poster promised inside the magazine is as dark, disturbing and ultimately engrossing as the cover.

So where in your bedroom would you hang the poster?

Not surprisingly, the good folks over in the Time/Warner building have pulled the dust covers off of Life Magazine, rolled her up from the basement storage locker and cranked out a $12.99 special. It’s worth every penny. If you’re into 100 year old nautical disasters. I am.

Worth it? Why yes!

But the default winner in the 100th anniversary disaster magazine niche category has to go to our “English Cousins” at Future who shoehorned the sinking of the Titanic into their quarterly special, Your Family Tree. As soon as I can dig out a copy, I’ll report back on just what, exactly, this is all about. But sight unseen (except for a cover image) this one wins and everyone gets into the lifeboat.

Your Family Tree - on the Titanic...

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the German’s have a leg up on all of us with regards to the ill fated ship. They have a monthly satire magazine by the name of Titanic. That logo is just awesome.

Tell me you don't lover their logo.

If you come across any interesting Titanic displays out on the newsstands, don’t forget to send them my way to newsstandpromos at

The May/June 2012 photographic cover of Archaeology Magazine. Submitted by the publisher.

And remember, the “Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack” feature continues. Please send in your photos.

Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 5 of…

Over the years, check out space has gone from being the exclusive domain of the larger mainstream magazine publishers to space shared with soft drinks, candy and DVDs. As this blog has pointed out, we sometimes even share space with basketball hoops.

There’s nothing new about USCAN self serve checkouts. Nor is there anything new about smaller scale magazine checkouts in the USCAN aisle. Sadly, there’s nothing new either about dump bins chock full of DVDs getting placed in front of a magazine rack in the USCAN aisle.

As a “Foredeck” contributor reports:

“Couldn’t resist not sending you this….as our industry works hard to make up for loss checkout space by the invention of the USCAN/SELF SCAN checkouts and us able to get magazine displays built to conform to these checkout models (each one being different)….we STILL CONTINUE to battle the almost 6’ tall floor displays of DVD movie releases!!”

Two DVD displays (mostly full) and an empty magazine pocket. Now this is a recipe for big sales volume...

And if we walk around to the other side of the display…

Even more merchandise is getting moved over here.

Things Placed in Front Of The Magazine Rack: Part 4 of…

For those of you who are paying attention, the correct title for this post should actually be “Things Placed in the Book A Zine Pocket”. But let’s not quibble.

This submission is from Mark White, the head of Specialty Marketing at US News and World Report.

On the plus side, texting and college goes together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Over the years, I’ve come across everything from empty candy wrappers to unopened cans of pop and discarded prepackaged seedless grapes in the mainline pockets. So while not shocking, this find certainly is amusing.

Don’t forget to keep sending in your photos of “Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack.” And while you’re at it, please follow this link to and check out the recap of Mark’s presentation at the Publishing Business Conference and Expo in New York last month where he discussed how US News broke the “11 Unwritten Rules” of Book A Zine publishing. It’s well worth the side trip.

Who knew our industry was so big on oral tradition?