This just in from a correspondent who was working in some former Source supermarkets in northeastern Ohio:
What would you do if you were a store manager and hadn’t received fresh product for premium retail space in three weeks? You’d take t-shirts from a best-selling children’s’ movie and drape them over the dead space on your check out. Then you’d cover it all up with pre-packs of cheap candy and multi-colored fly swatters.
There are thirteen checkouts in this store so there are thirteen checkout racks with a minimum of twenty-four pockets in each rack. All of them have had stale product since the end of May.
Everyone in the industry is working diligently to solve the problem of transitioning magazines from one distributor to another. How do we time deliveries? Can we split a print order and treat the new accounts as a re-ship? How does this impact last months’ sales? We’ve spent sleepless nights figuring out the financial hit client publishers, the surviving wholesalers and national distributors are going to take to make the transition work (Trust me, that one makes my eyes roll open around 2:00 AM each day). We’re wondering just how in hell we’re going to fill out our AAM reports next month.
Everything I’ve mentioned in the above paragraph: We (Those of us who work in the newsstand business) are good at. Really, really good. We’ve had a lot of practice.
But the real questions everyone in publishing should should ask are:
How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?
How much more can this industry take?
How can we get readers to come back after leaving them with nothing for so long?
How can we attract new readers? New markets? New products?
If you have some pictures from the field, please send them to me at my email address: joe.berger at newsstandpros.com and I will put them up.
More importantly, if you have any proposed answers to the questions above, let’s hear what you think. Our industry will live or die by what we do in the next twelve months.
I’m happy to give you credit for your ideas, or keep you anonymous. You’re choice.
Editor’s Note: I recently received a communication from business consultant Anne Chertoff. The presumption, in the article and how I read it, is that along with professional consulting services, she charges for career advice.
Instead, Ms. Chertoffs “Pick My Brain” is a service intended to offer start up businesses the opportunity to get some marketing consulting services without having to invest in a full time marketing firm or employee.
A link is provided here for further clarification.
A few times a day I take a timed break from the spreadsheets, data bases, emails, phone calls and other work-a-day routines to check in on the social media feeds to see what’s trending in the world of publishing and beyond. In particular, I’m looking for what is trending outside the circulation/audience development silo. And this being the 21st century, it helps to continue to enhance my own digital “brand.”
Keith Kelley writes about magazines for the NY Post so I follow that papers feed. Occasionally I’ll click on something beyond Mr. Kelly if it looks interesting.
This Monday, I was intrigued by a head line titled “Why people are charging to network over a cup of coffee” Was I missing out on a potential new source of income? The article was by writer and freelancer Anna Davies who turned down a request from another aspiring freelancer to meet for coffee and offer advice.
Ms. Davies reported that she was surprised at the reaction of her acquaintances who agreed with her decision to forgo the time and energy the meeting would have taken. She then went on to describe the growing trend of some self-employed professionals to charge for their “mentoring” services.
She points out Anne Chertoff, the founder of the boutique marketing agency, Anne Chertoff Media. Ms. Chertoff dealt with the flow of requests for advice by offering a service on her website called “Pick My Brain”. For $500.00 she gives advice seekers 90 minutes of her time. At the very least this is cheaper than seeking the advice of a Manhattan lawyer.
I couldn’t decide as I read through the article: Was the point to create some outrage over the fact that a cottage industry has sprung up to strip a few more dollars out of the pockets of the newly self-employed? Or if the author was just pointing out that some people are doing this while others are just irritated with requests for free help? Sprinkled throughout the short article are words of advice from people who don’t charge for these services.
Here’s my conclusion: If you’re charging people for advice, you’re a consultant. Deal with it. If you’re irritated with people asking you for free advice, then tell them up front that they get this much for free and after that the clock starts. That is just a very good, very basic business practice.
Over the years I’ve taken what is probably hundreds of of requests for advice about all things related to magazine publishing and being self employed. It took awhile to create some hard and fast rules and here they are:
1. No one, including my parents, gets my pricing guidelines, client list, or customer service guidelines. No one.
2. Everyone who calls or emails, from startup publishers to long time publishers get a certain set amount of my time. We can talk on the phone, communicte through email, and even meet face to face (depending on distance). I think that’s called good manners. Or maybe it’s called building and maintaining connections. Mostly it’s self-preservation.
Remember, you’re a free lancer, not a hermit. Did you really plan on becoming an agoraphobic? Get out there and talk to people.
Of course, they still don’t get my pricing guidelines, client list, or customer service guidelines.
3. If I know you and we’ve done business before and you’re about to become a competitor, you’re welcome to join the brotherhood. But you don’t get item #1 and the rest of the advice you get is timed and generic. But friendly.
Remember: You never know who you may be working on that next project with. Work friendly, y’all.
4. A publisher, even a novice start-up with limited funds is a potential customer and a potential long time friend. However, there is a difference between having a conversation with someone who could become a customer and when that someone is looking for free labor. Learn how to detect the difference.
There is a limit to how much “free” advice everyone gets. Much of that is on my blog under the heading of “Free Services”. We can talk for a while. However long ago I learned to say “I’ve been able to answer a lot of your questions, but if you want an answer to that one, I am going to have to turn the clock on and charge you.”
It’s not hard to learn how to say that. Nor is anyone’s feelings hurt if you say it politely, but firmly. If the persons feelings are hurt when you say that, you didn’t want to work with them anyway.
More often than not, when I tell a potential client that I need to start charging them if we keep the conversation going, they ask me how much I charge.
In case you were wondering: I charge less than a Manhattan lawyer.
If I were the CEO of a major internet provider such as AT&T, Verizon or Comcast, I’d totally be in favor of ending “Net Neutrality”. The prospect of being able to sell two tiers of service: One premium for the companies that can afford premium service, and one for everyone else. It makes sense.
Just like it makes sense for airlines to take what used to be a mildly uncomfortable experience, and make it miserable. Want to get on the plane quicker? $35.00 please. Want to put that bag in the overhead? $35.00 please. Want that aisle seat over the wing? $47.00 please. Oh, and we’ll periodically interrupt your work or entertainment to talk endlessly about all of the snacks, headsets and drinks we want to sell to you while you’re stuck in the air with us for two hours.
Net neutrality is just like that. The only people who seem to be in favor of it, aside from the CEOs of major internet providers are their flunkies who jabber and sputter away on cable TV news channels and try to insure the rest of us that this will be all fine and dandy and in no way would stop “innovation”.
Would Google have prospered if it had to try to build its user base in the slow lane? Highly unlikely. How about You Tube? It was coming up at the same time as a Google created video service. Users preferred You Tube. Google bought You Tube.
Where is the next Snapchat or Instagram going to come from in a multi tiered internet? Along with being easy and fun to use, those two apps did well because they could be accessed just as quickly as any other app out there.
Let’s drop in on that shallow, shrinking sea called the newsstand. What are the new launches that have grabbed the public’s attention and have grown into significant titles?
There are some stunning successes such as HGTV Magazine. The Food Network Magazine, the conversion of All You into a national title. Bauer brought Closer Magazine to these shores.
What can we say about these successful titles? They all came from major publishing houses that have deep pockets. The titles are either attached to a major brand that has mass appeal, or a title that already exists as a brand somewhere else. This is called brand extension. It is not innovation.
Where will the next Lowrider come from? Before it was bought by Primedia, it was a LA home town success story. It grew because there was nothing out there quite like it. The magazine reached out and spoke to a growing culture. It blossomed because the system was open enough at the time to allow it to grow (without the purchase of expensive promotions).
Where will the next Computer Shopper come from? This title grew from a little yellow newsprint tabloid into a thick four copy per bundle behemoth at its peak. Yes, it peaked and then fell. That’s the life cycle of magazines sometimes and sadly that’s what happened to this magazine.
So along with all of the other issues we see on the newsstand, you have to wonder: Is all we’ll see moving forward either small launches from the indies, endless “zombie” book-a-zines from the larger publishing houses, and an occasional behemoth launch tied into a behemoth brand like Dr. Oz or HGTV?
I don’t know. I was around and worked on the launches of Computer Shopper and Sassy. I worked on building Lowrider up and had a great experience attending Lowrider shows. Perhaps print “innovation” is moving to the margins of either major home runs, or short hops to first base for the small indies.
As the cable guys would say, “Time will tell.”
Editor’s Note: Net Neutrality is a very serious issue and the creation of a two tier internet benefits no one, really. It’s a short-sighted attempt to generate larger profits, nothing more.
Agree or disagree with that statement, you have an opportunity to make your voice heard by posting a comment to the FCC by clicking here: http://www.fcc.gov/comments
I urge you to do so, and while you’re at it, let your local congressional representative and senator know how you feel about it.