Local Publisher Solves Distribution Conundrum

Editor’s Note: Periodically, our lucky correspondent, Felix Chartae brings us news from the present, news from the future and news about our favorite publisher, Outside the Groove Media of Eagle, CO.

This week The Foredeck brings you a report about how this plucky publisher solved a newsstand distribution problem plaguing many local magazine publishers.

 

By Felixe Chartae, August 21, 2014

It seemed like a “no brainer” for Outside the Groove Media to purchase the assets of a failing local publisher. “Rocky Mountain Triathlete magazine featured many of the same sporting activities that we covered in our national magazines,” Said Peter Westleigh, CEO of Outside the Groove, “And we bumped up against them repeatedly in sales calls, industry events, even promotional activities. We were  were sure we could fold their editorial and sales teams of all three titles into our office.”

But nothing could prepare Westleigh or his circulation team for the onslaught they were about to face shortly after the first issues of their new acquisitions hit the stands.

“It was almost as if the entire state had contracted TMB,” said Wendy Ashburnham, the Audience Development Director for Outside The Groove.

As reported earlier, TMB, or Temporary Magazine Blindness is a disease that the CDC in Atlanta, GA has described as “The unusual condition when magazine advertisers, sales representatives or publishers and employees of magazine publishers walk up to a newsstand and fail to see their magazine on display for sale on the newsstand even though the magazine is, in fact, on the said newsstand.”

Ashburnham, a long time veteran of magazine circulation, admitted to having little interaction with the newsstand world prior to the acquisition of these three titles. “We have a distributor who talks to the wholesalers and frankly, I could never figure out what language they were speaking. So I got a consultant and told him to handle it and not bug us too much.”

That seemed to work well for the publisher. “Occasionally,” continued Ashburnham, “Peter would call me about not seeing our national titles in his King Sooper, but I could usually get that fixed. Usually I just dropped off a copy or two on my way home.”

“Once we put those locals on sale, Holy Hannah, Katie bar the door!” said CEO Westleigh.

Westleigh and Ashburnham reported that their office was inundated with calls from outraged advertisers who claimed they never saw one single issue of Rocky Mountain Life, Triathlete or Outdoors magazines. These were followed up with panicked emails from sales representatives who claimed the same thing and began to offer “make goods” to the irritated advertisers.

Whenever Westleigh went out to the newsstand, he too could never find any of his new titles.

“It was certainly a worrisome transition,” said Wendy Ashburnham.

The troubled circulator called in her consultant, Laki Patrika to see if he had any ideas.

“I never know what to do in these situations,” admitted Patrika. “Mostly because there are so many possibilities. Sometimes, the advertisers and sales reps are spot on. The magazine is not there.”

“But,” continued the consultant, “Usually it’s because it’s the end of the sales cycle and what hasn’t sold was returned and the new issue isn’t in yet. Or sometimes, the magazine is not authorized for that store, or sometimes it’s authorized for the chain, but not that sized rack in that store. Or sometimes the magazine went on sale late, or early. Or it’s a merchandising problem and we have no real control over that. Or sometimes the magazine was in that store, but nothing sold and eventually it was removed from the distribution,” he said.

“And this is weird,” Patrika continued with his monologue, “Sometimes they just don’t see it, even though it’s right there on the front lip.”

Patrika did not know about the CDC’s “TMB” diagnosis.

“Huh,” said Patrika when this correspondent informed him, “That explains it.”

The solution that Ashburnham and Patrika came up with is both ingenious, probably not helpful to the local wholesalers, but has seemed to solve the problem of irate advertisers.

Peter Westleigh,  Wendy Ashburnham and Laki Patrika of Outside The Groove Media discuss their innovative solution to solving their latest newsstand conundrum. Source: in-this-economy.com)
Peter Westleigh, Wendy Ashburnham and Laki Patrika of Outside The Groove Media discuss their innovative solution to solving their latest newsstand conundrum. Source: in-this-economy.com)

Outside the Groove hired their own merchandisers to follow the local wholesaler merchandisers on the days that the three new magazines go on sale. As soon as the merchandisers put up the magazine, the Outside the Groove merchandisers move the magazines to the front of the rack, then superglue the magazine to the base of the rack so the copies can not be removed. This insures that the copies stay front and center for the life of the on-sale period.

“Of course it kind of stinks on the sales side,” said Patrika, “And then there’s the clean up at the end of the sales cycle.”

This was solved by using a box cutter to slice the magazines out of the rack and get them into the returns bin.

“But the level of complaints from advertisers and sales staff has declined to almost zero,” said Ashburnham, “And that means we can deal with other issues.”

At this point, our interview was interrupted when CEO Westleigh walked in and asked, “Hey Wendy, how come this month’s issue of Rock mag isn’t in my King Sooper.”

“Like that,” said Ashburnham.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best 2014 Covers … so far

Editor’s Note: Music to accompany this post is brought to you by former hippies and Seals and Crofts.

Summer is waning and Fall is approaching more quickly than we may care to consider. The second quarter is done, quarterly estimates have been paid. Tomatoes and beans are ripening on the vines and we’re well into the third quarter.

Very soon, AAM will release the 1st half 2014 circulation numbers and there is no doubt that the next round of “What Should Publishers Do Next” articles and “How Low Can The Newsstand Go?” will flood our morning news feeds.

If the prospect of those soon to be published dark and dolorous articles is putting an edge on your morning, here’s a look, a very unscientific and very biased look at the best 2014 magazine covers. So far.

1. Dazed and Confused: Jan/Feb ’14. I absolutely love finding this magazine on my local bookstore rack. Do you hear Led Zeppelin in your head every time you see this title? The Jan/Feb issue of this UK import featured actress Lupita Nyongo on a brilliantly colorful layout.

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2. Wonderland Magazine: Spring ’14. Another UK import, this title kicked off the new year with two covers and guest editorial from actress and recent college graduate, Emma Watson.

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3. MIT Technology Review: Jul/Aug ’14. Don’t act all shocked and everything. Why can’t tech heads and geek gods create beautiful magazines? This may not be the most mainstream of newsstand covers, but it is creative and engaging.

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4. Essence Magazine: May ’14.  This publisher rolled out three unique covers for their May issue. Erykah Badu, Ledisi and Solange Knowles each got their own covers featuring stories on learning to love their natural brand of beauty.

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5. Entertainment Weekly: March 21, ’14. This weekly pub, now liberated from their corporate overlords, reached out to their sci-fan base in March as BBC America’s Orphan Black and the talented Tatiana Maslany showed three of her many characters from the ground-breaking show.

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6. Food Network Magazine: Jun ’14. This title has been a top rated newsstand performer since it’s inception. We know food covers perform well. And who doesn’t love a good burger? Usually we see this sort of cover on a city magazine so it’s nice to see the burger on a national cover.

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7. New Yorker Magazine:  Jan. 13, ’14. Remember the winter of 2014? OK, so you don’t want to remember it. The Jan. 13 cover of The New Yorker is far back in the rear view mirror but perhaps this cover, both spare and whimsical at the same time will bring a smile to your face and a shiver down your spine if the day is too hot.

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8. Recoil Magazine: Jul/Aug ’14. This “gun lifestyle” magazine from the publisher formerly known as Source Interlink continues to produce dark, stark, serious covers. This one achieved its goal  – I could not drag my eyes away from it. Why is a well dressed man holing a semi-automatic? I picked it up to find out. Mission accomplished.

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9. ESPN Magazine – The Body Issue: Every year ESPN Magazine’s  “Body Issue” generates a ton of publicity as it coaxes athletes to disrobe for a series of pictures. This year, two of the most buzzworthy covers come from baseballer Prince Fielder who showed us that size matters and that you can be graceful no matter. He was joined by olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson who managed both athletic prowess and cheesecake at the same time.

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10. Mother Jones Magazine: Jul/Aug ’14. Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones was a 19th century union organizer and self-proclaimed hell raiser. Her namesake magazine, now almost forty years old, follows in that tradition and its July/August cover features a very clever take off on a tabloid cover. Leave the politics aside, this cover is spot on.

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In the past year, the newsstand world has been rocked by a series of seemingly endless retailer shifts followed by a major wholesaler bankruptcy. Have we finally reached the shores of wholesaler stability? Does anyone out there really want to rework their CVS distributions again?

Let’s set aside all of the articles about the troubles of the newsstand: we know what is wrong, we know it needs to be fixed, and many of us have some ideas as to how the industry could be healed (or at least staunch the bleeding). For now, let’s just enjoy some of the beautiful product we get to sell.

More importantly, what are some of your favorite covers so far this year? Drop them into the comments or email them to me.

Coming up next: The runners-up.