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 gmail.com.

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.

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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 printbuyersinternational.com 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?

Mayans and Texans and RDA Consultants….

It is possible that once upon a time in the not too distant past, selling magazines from the newsstand was an easy thing. Maybe once upon a time in the world, everything was shiny, new, clean, smooth running. Maybe all businesses were local and savvy. Canny, but honest. Everyone was polite. All children were well scrubbed, happy and bright.

But all that must have ended the day I went to work full time.  A few days into my new job as a “Regional Sales Manager” for the former Capital Distributing Company, my trainer from Texas got up to take a bathroom break and left me sitting aimlessly at our work table trying to figure out the giant stack of carbon forms in front of me and wondering why properly filling them out would make a difference to anyone. One of the grand old timers of the crowded, very noisy and very, very busy Chas. Levy “Rep Room”, got up, walked around the maze of tables and came up to me. He leaned down and placed his forearms on the table in front of me.

“Let me ask you,” he said, a smile on his face, “What are you doing here?”

When you’re three weeks out of college, horribly homesick for the green hills of upstate New York, and only sure that you wanted to be “out there” somewhere, doing something other than going to grad school, you don’t have a handy or snappy answer.

“Learning the business, I guess” I replied with some hesitation. “You know, I think I told you I grew up in it.”

“Go do something else. This business isn’t like it used to be.  It’s no good anymore.” He rose and straightened his back.  “Smart guy like you should go get another job. Think about it.” He waved and weaved his way back through the maze of desks and tables to his spot.

My Texan came back from his break. He wore thick eyeglasses as a result of recent cataract surgery. He was one of those guys who didn’t let a thing like near blindness get in his way. He was always on the move, happy, quick with a comment on whatever was in front of him.

He sat down, adjusted his glasses on his nose, picked up his magnifying glass, and gestured at the stack of printouts that were in front of us.

“So,” he drawled, “Where are we?”

“Ummmm”, was all I could say.

Where are we is an excellent question for the first week of the second quarter of the year when everything is supposed to end (According to the Mayans).

Let’s fast forward ten years. By now I’ve worked for a national distributor, a publisher, a consulting firm. A few of the mid-sized national distributors have merged into larger companies. One of the most venerable distributors actually went out of business and that unprecedented event left many publishers scrambling. A month before my marriage, the consulting firm I work for shuts down. It is one of the first notable victims of the end result of the many leveraged buy outs of publishing companies. I strike out on my own.

One of the publisher representatives I worked with back then I named the “Sighing Man” because, well, he sighed a lot.

The “Sighing Man “ would  spend much of the day sitting at his spot at the tables, morosely picking his way through his printouts, commenting on the ineptitude the world in general of his company in particular and of course, what he saw as the ineptitude of the wholesaler who housed the representatives who worked there. Late one afternoon, he picked up the big bound stack of bulk sales reports, poked at the keys of the balky Windows equipped laptop his company supplied him, sighed heavily, and proclaimed to everyone in the room, “It just doesn’t get any better than this! Does it?”

“No,” we replied in unison.

All of this comes to mind as we pass that point in time where we can see patterns in the shadows. We may have a clue about how this no longer new year will pan out.

Leaving aside the advent of digital publications in more forms and types than we have fingers, there is no denying that the business is very different from when I started. Or even three years ago. Leveraged buy outs created bigger but more fragile publishing companies. Twenty years ago, even the most inept magazine wholesaler could earn a reasonable profit. Now the only family owned operations that survive remain in business because the family members and their employees work harder than any of their predecessors could ever have imagined. The three big national wholesalers struggle to be profitable and that struggle makes the newsstand distribution process even more fragile than the most heavily stressed national publishing house.

So what can be seen from the foredeck?

  • Sales will be down, just not by incredibly horrible numbers.
  • However, we will still be plagued by plenty of “The End is Nigh” articles and “What Does This Mean?” analyses and “What All Of Us Should Do” commentary. If you’re in client services, this means, “Brace for Impact”.
  • Pass Through RDA is a boon to retailers. It can be helpful to wholesalers. It won’t open up the authorization process for publishers. It will hurt like hell if you’re an RDA consultant. If you’re a national distributor, I imagine it will hurt if you charge your clients for RDA auditing, and would make the audit process more complicated.
  • Which could be a problem if you’re a publisher. But overall, Pass Through should be neutral at best.
  • The Comag/News Group merger could sooth the troubled waters of the industry as described by more knowledgable people than me. However, I wonder, if more mergers occur, or if the channels “behave better” as is often described, who will advocate for the smaller publishers? Who will have the clout to correct the top heaviness of the larger publishers and distributors?
  • There will still be plenty of new launches, re-launches, specials, annuals and all the rest hitting the racks this year. But the threshold of entry is getting very high, and we’re having a harder and harder time giving publishers a compelling reason to be on the racks.

Not because print is no longer compelling. The hour I spent last week wandering Around The World News in Manhattan proved that. However the process is so tangled, so difficult and so convoluted. The solution still isn’t smaller racks and fewer titles, it’s a more flexible system that does a better job of marketing, distribution and presentation.

If the Mayans are wrong, we’ll see if we figure that one out.