On Quidditch and Newsstand Sales

A few days ago, I was sitting on a couch in my parents’ family room with my brother and our discussion wandered into a conversation about life, Harry Potter and the sport of Quidditch. My brother said that if the sport really existed, and you played it the way that magical people were supposed to play it, it would prove to be the most difficult sport ever played. I think he may be right.

Muggle sports are pretty straightforward and linear. Kind of like the way we usually think about our lives. You move the ball down the field. Put it in a net of some sort. Score. Players move around bases, down the ice, swim back and forth in the pool, bike or run from point A to point B.

Quidditch is very different. You fly on a broom. The field is up, down, diagonal. It’s three-dimensional. You can put your ball (called a Quaffle) not through one hoop, but one of three. Could you guard three hoops while balancing in the air on a broomstick?

Kind of like that.

All the while, the defensive players on the opposing team are trying to knock you off your broom, not by “tackling” you, but by whacking giant, heavy balls called Bludgers at your head.

And just like life can be unfair, your team can be ahead 110 to 50 and still lose. How, you may ask? There’s a player called a seeker whose one job is to catch a small winged ball called a snitch. If she catches it, her team gets 150 points and the game is over. So, she catches the snitch, you lose 200 to 110.

When you think about it, life, and most of our activities are linear. We’re born and the stages of life are straightforward: Infancy, child, teen, young adult, adult, middle age, and old age. Activities, especially games, are the same way and for many of us, our career paths are very linear.

Bludgers and snitches are like the bumps you experience in life. You exercise, eat thoughtfully, live right. And one day, a small bit of plaque comes off an artery and you have a heart attack.

Or one day you get called into the Senior Executive Vice President’s office and he says, “We like you fine, you do good work, but our consultants’ review of the company says, we don’t need you anymore. Here’s your severance package.”

The consultants said that revenues would go up 10% if we cancel Quidditch.

And now that I think about it, the single copy sales of magazines are a lot like Quidditch.

For example: Sorry about that hurricane that hit the southeastern US last week while you were launching your new title. What a shame it impacted 38% of your launch allotment.

Wisconsin 3
Where’s that Feature Pocket we bought for the new launch?

For example (This is a real example): Well, we production guys thought we were saving the company a few hundred bucks when we put this UPC code on the cover that we found online. Too bad it doesn’t scan at the wholesalers or the retailers. Sorry you have to re-sticker an entire launch allotment of 175,000 copies at a minimum of $0.50 per copy and miss the on-sale date of all those promotions you bought for the new title. It’s too bad the costs have to come out of the newsstand department’s budget because…accounting rules?

For example: The distribution of the new title is perfect. Retailers match the magazine readers demographics. All of the major national chain retailers are authorized and have magazines distributed to high volume stores. The promotions line up with peak season activities. The problem? The art department locks the newsstand team out of cover meetings and covers are beautiful works of art that have nothing to do with selling magazines at retail.

In other words, retail sales, and Quidditch are three-dimensional and often not fair. There are so many things that you have no control over that can impact how you play the game.

So what do you do? Like any good Quidditch player, hold your Quaffle tight to your chest, keep you head down and your eyes on the look out for rogue Bludgers. Head towards the golden hoops and try to score. And make sure you have a really good Seeker (who creates beautiful covers).

But it’s really great when you win!




Magazine Display of the Week: Success=Harry Potter

Here is another display that I simply could not resist snapping a picture of. Yes, Harry Potter is an amazing success for the book, magazine and movie industry. Now that we’re at the end of the story, what’s in store for all of the players?

On the heels of last week’s successful PBAA/MPA retail convention, a slew of great follow up articles appeared on the IPDA web site recapping the presentations. It looks like I missed some excellent workshops – but I don’t regret the time spent with the extended family one bit.

From the department of “No Kidding: We Kind of Suspected This Already and We Can’t Wait to See the Final Report” came this presentation sponsored by: IPDATime/Warner Retail Sales and MarketingThe News GroupSource InterlinkHudson NewsMag Net and sales and marketing experts, Dechert-Hampe.

The study pointed out some of the best practices for retailers when it came to maximizing sales at the mainline. This included:

-Positioning mainlines near the front of the store, but not beyond point of purchase (which happens more often that we’d like).

-Locating mainlines in aisles 10-17, when mainlines are in aises.

-Optimal mainline length is 18 and 24 feet in the largest stores.

-Three tiers in mainlines.

-Position mainlines near complimentary product categories.

None of this is surprising or new to those of us who work in the industry. But I truly appreciate the fact that these industry leaders put together a study that formalizes theses facts. This can only help build up a knowledge base that we can use when working with our retail partners.

All too often we see mainlines tossed into some dark corner of a store, chopped up, moved off to the back of the store, or worse, placed past the point of purchase and treated like bags of rock salt or flats of seasonal plantings. To make generating sales more difficult, they are often plan-o-grammed with one size fits all magazine placings, indifferently merchandised or used as a dumping ground for unsaleable magazines, or for check out magazines.

My hope for this study, and the ones that follow, is that our industry will use this knowledge to aid in the selling of better space allocations. That was the promise when the industry consolidated in the mid 1990’s. Almost twenty years later, we still await delivery.

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