What’s Different This Time: Part 1

Is 2014 the new 2009? Or 1998? Or 1995?

This time, I am an independent contractor instead of an employee on a contract. The second screen is a MacBook Air instead of the original white MacBook. The main screen is a nicely powered iMac instead of a sluggish Windows XP enabled HP that had the world’s noisiest fan. The cell phone is an iPhone 5 instead of a Windows Mobile enabled Motorola. The fax is virtual, not physical.

But other than that, this time it is pretty much the same. A large wholesaler has “exited” the business. They couldn’t make money. They tried to get their suppliers to pay them more and they were turned down. Then their suppliers cut them off when the couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the bills.

So we pick up the pieces. We care for the publishers needs by trying to expedite the removal of copies from closed or soon to be closed warehouses. We explain the terms of their national distribution contracts. We try to calculate what is covered and what will be a loss. We try to project what the landscape will look like when the dust settles. Again.

We look forward and estimate what print orders for the next six weeks may look like. Where will they be in six months. We talk back and forth with other colleagues: “How’re you doing? What’s going on? What have you heard? What are you working on? Did you hear that…. This worked, maybe you can try.”

We call our Account Execs and other service providers: “Have you heard about…?”

“When can you get me…?”

“How soon will we know….”

And we remember that we should ask them, “How’re you hanging in?”

We try not to think about people we know who will soon find themselves unemployed. Adrift in a sea of unemployed. Most are hard working people who regardless of their work ethic, worked in a business that others consider outdated, antiquated, “Should have been put out of it’s misery years ago.”

Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

2014 is not 2009, but it feels remarkably similar. Places that I used to call on or visit will no longer be on itinerary. Short cuts, backs doors, people who you could trade with to get things done in short order will no longer be available.

The sky is closer. Is this sustainable?

The business needs rearranging so it is profitable. More importantly, we need a business that doesn’t cause the producers, our publishers, to throw up their hands in exasperation because they don’t understand how we work, what we do. We should not be black robed magi and high priests chanting unrecognizable prayers to the gods of sales. The new high priests, the web and app based demigods have no patience for our jargon, no interest in our drawn out production schedules.

Likewise, we need to make the case to publishers that circulation, audience development, whatever label you need to slap on it, should no longer be the red headed step child of a magazine’s organization. No audience, no magazine.

Is there a future for the print newsstand? Most likely there is. My hope would be that we finally get it right this time. I don’t want to be at my desk, or on a plane, or in a taxi (It was all of those this week) and ask myself, ever again, “What’s different this time?” and realize that the answer is, “Not too much.”

What do you think? How can we fix this and create a sustainable, profitable newsstand?




2 Replies to “What’s Different This Time: Part 1”

  1. Had an interesting conversation with — yesterday. His point being it is all about SBT. How much can he expand (warehouse busting at the seams now) and not get stuck for a million bucks that he would have to borrow to make ND payments, and he does not want to be in a position where he owes his banker that sum. What local chains in his area previously serviced by Source do NOT have SBT, those he would be interested in. Chances are he will have the —- accounts.

  2. IMO Source was doomed to fail due to the idea to disrupt the DSD model and use 3rd party trucking and then try and coordinate merchandisers. Of course there were other issues I’m not at liberty to talk about. The dual system of traditional unsolds determining payment and SBT payments or simply consignment and traditional is a nightmare no one wants to address. IMO the Magnet analytics are years behind what I used 20 years ago. There has always been and regretfully always will be a TRUST issue among industry quasi-business channel partners. I once remember being told of a major title’s RDA per copy payments claimed exceeded its print order. The time has come to surgically repair the RDA system. That’s only one of the many issues. Retailers want to pay for product when sold to the consumer; National distributors want to basically get paid 30 days from on sale and for the wholesaler to be responsible for the undocumented shrinkage. GET REAL! Would any national distributor accept Pay When Sold terms if they dealt direct with the retail channel? I hardly think so. Only specialty retailers have designed systems to read the add on issue code so mass market scanning of product can not definitively state 100% which issue of a specific title was sold. Either re-engineer the system so the wholesaler pays for only the product that get paid for or only supply product to traditional inventory method retailers. Don’t shut off wholesale, shut off the retail that refuses to comply with the unique terms and conditions (guaranteed sale or return) of a valuable and unique product category. I truly regret that I’m in a powerless position to do anything to once again to radically modify the distribution channel as I once did by 100% title regulation, no negative sales, demographic retailer analytics matched to title analytics, in-store return scanning, online – realtime processing, in-store merchandising services, and all the other innovations from a family that had been in newsstand since 1904.

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