Twitter hashtags are a great way to figure out what’s hot, trending, and if you’re in a small tributary of the magazine publishing business, connect with people with like minded interests.
About a week or more ago, someone in the book industry started a hashtag #bookswithalettermissing. I picked it up late and after hours (which is a good thing because otherwise I could have been diverted for days), but had enormous fun looking through the great ideas and got to make up some of my own and contribute them to the fun. It’s still going on if you want to check it out.
This past week, #magazineswithalettermissing showed up in the feed and what the heck, let’s abandon all pretense, shall we? How can you resist? What’s great about this hashtag is the simple fact that 28 of your 140 characters are used up with the hashtag. Further evidence that while small, the mag biz is chock full of very clever, funny, creative people.
Rather than copy everything down and miss making the appropriate attributions, below are four screen caps of some the tweets. Go ahead, add some of your own:
The weather’s been wonderful for August, the world hasn’t imploded since the latest ABC numbers release and there’s tomatos in the garden waiting to be picked. Happy Friday everyone. Keep flying.
Sometime next week, the Audit Bureau of Circulation will release the results from the first half of the year. The news from the newsstand side of the world will not be good. Sales are expected to be down for these industry leading titles. Possibly in double digits. On top of that, my colleagues at MagNet, the wholesaler owned repository of industry sales have already hinted at some preliminary numbers that suggests retail sales dollars could be off by as much as 8% or more.
No doubt the follow-up to this news will be a plethora of blog postings, earnest op-ed pieces, and journalistic dissections that will discuss in detail about how troubled the magazine business is in general and how deeply in peril the newsstand distribution is in particular. A good BoSacks vs. Mr. Magazine point/counterpoint may be just what the doctor orders to rinse away the summer doldrums.
I’d be a fool to dispute any of the numbers. So I won’t. While it’s true that statistics can be bent in any particular way you want to tell almost any story you want, there is no way to dispute that for many magazines, newsstand sales are down. Furthermore there doesn’t seem to be any quick turnaround in the immediate future.
The reasons for the downturn are staring us in the face:
It’s the economy, stupid. Store visits are down, unemployment is high. People are bypassing the magazine rack in favor of the Ramen Noodle display.
It’s the economy stupid, part 2: So long as we heavily discount subscriptions, single copy sales will be for someone who wants that magazine NOW. Not in six to eight weeks. If your pockets are feeling a little light, you’ll wait. Or you’ll just never get the magazine
File this one under, “Tell me something I don’t know, Sherlock. We have a dysfunctional industry.” Each link in the chain: Publisher, National Distributor, Wholesaler, Retailer, has a completely different set of metrics for measuring success and profitability. What works for the publisher, may not work for the wholesaler, or retailer, and vice versa.
You can also file this one in the same folder: “Tell me something I don’t know, Sherlock. We have a dysfunctional industry, Part 2”. On top of differing definitions of success and failure, we also have four participants in this industry who don’t seem to like or trust each other very much (Which really makes for a fascinating work environments).
Yes, we’d be foolish to deny that the web, tablets and e-readers are contributing to some of these sales declines.
Likewise, we’d be foolish to blame the downturn on just the digital side of the aisle.
I’ve maintained for a long time that we need to do a better job of marketing and merchandising our products, and tooting our own horns. If we were better at these simple tasks, the reports that get written about us would be very different.
With that in mind, may I present to you some interesting features from the field?
If you work in our end of the magazine business, or in the magazine business in general and wish you could ignore everything you will read in the coming weeks, don’t. Read the articles and try to understand what they are saying and where they are coming from. Put yourselves in their shoes. If you disagree with their conclusions, dispute their conclusions and where you can, and where it makes sense offer up a different conclusion and an alternative solution.
Politely would be nice. But if you’re of a different mind, have at it.
This is a mature and troubled business. The future is not set in stone. We don’t have to go over the edge and into the abyss.