A Bounty of Book A Zines

We’ve seen numerous reports of the remarkable growth of the Book A Zine category since the beginning of this no longer new decade. Most of the reports marvel at the tremendous elasticity of the category, the unit sales growth and the wide variety of titles that publishers are pumping out.

But unless you really go and look at a magazine rack today, you wouldn’t really see and feel the impact of what this “new” category is doing to the rack.* Oh you can talk about it and read all about it, but until you really go and look and see, you might not understand it.

As our former Secretary of Defense and eloquent wordsmith Donald Rumsfeld once said:

When there were more wholesalers to visit, distributions to work and territories to see, I always made it a point to spend a few hours at retail. Unlike some of the traveling pooh-bahs of the time, my goal wasn’t to find an issue to use as a cudgel on the local rep. I really wanted to see and know the town. It was the only way I felt that I could know, understand and own what I was working on. The only way to know what I knew and know that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

If you know what I mean. Because otherwise it was just a bunch of numbers.

We don’t have that today. When was the last time someone other than the local merchandiser was in the Martin’s on Route 20 in South Bend, IN?

The other day I spent some time getting acquainted with a new supermarket in the wake of my neighborhood store closing. While I still go out to retail, these days I’m usually just looking for one or two client titles. It was good to really stop, look, absorb, and spend time at the rack. It’s a great way to learn a store.

And look how these “zines” have taken over the rack:

Who said "General Interest" is dead?
Who said “General Interest” is dead?
Cooking, cowboys...and ice fishing? Well, it is January, this is the Midwest.
Cooking, cowboys…and ice fishing? Well, it is January, this is the Midwest.
Maybe there was nowhere else to drop the bridal mag?
Maybe there was nowhere else to drop the bridal mag?

While this part of the market is doing well, they can strain the distribution chain. If the store is part of chain that has “SBT” (Scan Based Trading), then the wholesaler owns that merchandise. These are annuals. Those are high cover prices and a long on sale. That’s a lot of inventory to own.

There are fewer turns on the rack unless the publisher is pumping out a bunch of ‘Zines. And while some publishers are (cough, cough) pumping out a ton of ‘zines, it’s not enough to replace the lost sales we see in the higher volume categories.

Lastly, not all magazine categories are naturals for these “Zines.” And, more importantly, there are some economic issues to be concerned with. Without some existing clout behind you, a brand that is well established and has a significant newsstand presence, these aren’t that cheap to produce nor are they that cheap to launch in the blind.

In the comments section of Dead Tree Edition’s post about Book A Zines, industry guru Bo Sacks wondered if we would get too greedy and kill the category. I’m inclined to think not. Unlike a regular frequency title, you don’t repeat a special edition if it doesn’t work. It’s just too costly. Unlike a monthly, you’re not going to leave it on life support because there’s no ad or subscriber revenue to prop it up.

Where will the category go? I don’t know. But it was nice to stop and look, really look at the rack.

*For the record, back in the day, we called them annuals or SIPS. There just weren’t as many of them, and they didn’t have good press.

Will Selena Gomez’ December Glamour Magazine Cover Be The Number One Cover of The Year?

Glamour Magazine finished up it’s run this year with a bright red cover featuring singer-actress Selena Gomez.

Was it worthy of making the top ten list for the Foredeck’s “Completely Biased, Highly Subjective and Unscientific List” of the  top ten magazine covers of 2012?

Come back on Wednesday and you’ll see.

Don't make the Beiber mad!
Don’t make the Beiber mad!

Did Fur Fish Game Magazine Make the Cut?

This Wednesday we’ll be publishing the official “Completely Biased, Highly Subjective and Unscientific List of the Top Ten Magazine Covers of 2012”.

Why should you care what someone from the newsstand side of the magazine business thinks about covers? Why does anyone turn to a “Top Ten” list in mid December?

Well, why not? What else are you doing this late in the year? Working? Shh! Flip to the spreadsheet. I won’t tell your boss!

Check back on Wednesday and you’ll see if this rather interesting and well performing cover from a magazine you may have never paid attention to before made it onto the list.


We guarantee you’ll have an opinion about who’s on the list and why.

Do you have any candidates I may have missed?

If I Could, I’d Read it in the Sunday Papers

Editor’s Note: Here’s another post that’s been sitting in my edit que waiting for some buffing and the “publish” button to be pressed. Some recent experiences in the past week in the electronics department brought home the message that it was still relevant.

The phone rang and for a change, I was able to pick it up and plug in the headset before Vonage tossed the call over to voice mail.

“Joe,” my client said breathlessly, “Really bad news.”

“Ruh roh”, I thought. Wait for it….

“What’s going on?” I asked, wishing I had dropped the receiver, plugged the headset into the wrong phone, or simply let the phone answer itself.

“The printer called. The press broke down. We’re going to miss our print date. Maybe by a week or more!”

“They can’t move you to another press? Don’t they have something like twenty five locations around the country?” I asked while mentally figuring out how many wholesalers I needed to call, how many promotional programs I could reschedule without being fined. How this would impact sales four and five issues down the line.

“They’re all booked. We’re stuck.”

Silence. Then…

“I’m kidding. Relax, we just went to the bindery. We’re fine. It looks great.”

Oh, those publishers. They are such kidders.

And I used to be much taller.

Two days later I walked out to the curb to pick up the Sunday paper. The Sunday Trib was also waiting for me on my iPad and there are times when I find myself doing double duty with both the print and digital editions. During election season, I often went to the iPad first, but not for the Tribune. Sometimes I have serious disagreements with the folks on the editorial page. Replacing the iPad would cost some serious money. On the other hand, if I decide to toss those editors into the rubish (or worse), the act is not all that violent and costs me less than a buck.

But this week, there was some serious mis-printing (As you can see below) on my Sunday paper.

Of course this also happens in the magazine world too. Last month one of my clients sent me some sample polybagged copies. My samples came with the front cover placed upside down so the UPC code was hiding behind the black on white headliner on the polybag (Thus hiding the UPC code and preventing it from scanning).

Fortunately, that error seemed to only involve my copies. No wholesalers or retailers were harmed in the shipment of copies. So it was all good.

Which leads me to the following: In the past few weeks, my iPad has occasionally crashed while browsing in Safari. There’s a bounty of helpful forums about what to do on Google and on the Apple site. Fortunately the iPad is not the only way I go on line. Otherwise, we’d have some issues, wouldn’t we?

At the same time, a few settings somehow “changed” either in my anti-virus program or on my firewall on my relatively new and recently upgraded iMac. So getting to Google from my iMac is a challenge until I straighten that out. Maybe something to do with that software “upgrade”.

My Andoird powered smart phone just celebrated it’s 13 month birthday and like the smart phones before it, I am finding it’s software getting decidedly glitchy and the hardware shows signs of age despite the best efforts to be gentle with it. While the reviews of the phone called it “slick’, “durable”, “rugged”, and “well equipped to go the long haul”, well, all of the reviews were written 18 months ago when it first came out. The phone was brand new to the reviewers. What would they think now?

Let’s not even talk about the aging laptop that sits forlornly at the end of my desk. It used to proudly go almost everywhere with me. Now, not so much. The App store just told me that an upgrade wouldn’t work on my dusty old processor. Does it feel embarrassment?

The point is, digital media is still all about the tech. And the tech can be glitchy.

When this happens:


It’s not such a big deal. Because you can deal. Inconvenient, yes. But it’s not a lot of change out of your pocket.

When this happens:

Safari Crash

Well, guess you won’t read that article for awhile huh? Better hope your investment is still under warranty.

Just to reiterate. I’m not a Luddite. I don’t want to go back to the bad old days. Digital is part of the way forward. But we’ve got a long way to go.