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?

Things Placed In Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 2 of…. (And One More Thing)

If I were a more fair minded person, I’d stop picking on this particular retailer. But this week, I was presented with a trifecta of bad. Perhaps even St. Thomas Aquinas would have had trouble holding back.

Hope you weren't counting on selling anything out of that tower.
Chocolate and magazines surely go together. But is this the best way?
Seriously? A buyer spent corporate money for green colored beach balls? And "they" write snarky editorials about the newsstand business?

I can be fair though. It’s my understanding that certain union rules keep the local wholesaler’s merchandiser from setting up the store. For those of us in the business who would then counter with, “Well, why doesn’t the route manager go in and work with the store merchandiser and manager”? Good question. My guess is that that has happened. Probably a few times.

In keeping with this week’s calendar, there’s only so much even St. Jude can do.

In other news:

I was hopeful last week that we were going to evade the latest round of ABC Audit reports with minimal breathless reporting on the certain demise of newsstand industry. Clearly, I had been spending too much time on the port side of the foredeck admiring the waves.

Audience Development Magazine published a column from former Ziff Davis VP of Circulation, Baird Davis that suggests that “the newsstand is nearing endangered species status”!

Still? Aren’t we dead yet?

Of course, this was picked up and distributed by Bo Sacks.

Davis does point out many disturbing trends in the latest round of ABC numbers. And it is helpful to have that staring at you in black and white. But for those of us who work on the front lines, it’s nothing new. We already knew, and the people we report to already know, and the people we work with in all avenues and all channels of the marketplace are aware.

Which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t or can’t report on what he reports on. It’s just that there’s little here that is new or helpful.

Like many people who have reported on it, Davis suggests that the recent purchase of Comag, the formerly joint national distribution venture of Hearst and Conde Nast by national magazine wholesaler, The News Group could be a positive thing. He and others have suggested that it may bridge the divides in our business and lead to better channel cooperation. Maybe between News Group and Comag. But I have yet to hear a serious explanation of how this will solve our industry problems.

Publisher’s consultant Linda Ruth, also an Audience Development Magazine columnist makes a more interesting and perhaps correct assertion that “on one level we have a massive paradigm shift here, on another it’s business as usual.”

The article wraps up with a call to our industry leaders, especially the largest publishers such as Conde Nast, Hearst, Time/Warner and others, to work together to solve the “dangerously viral” condition of the newsstand industry.

OK. How?

I must confess that I often make this clarion call myself. While I am alone in my office. With the dog out of earshot. And then I come to a “Full Stop”.

How do we get the major circulation directors of the major publishers into a room to decide the fate of a  multi billion dollar industry? Moreover, do they have the right to determine the fate for all of the participants in that industry? Can I be assured that the end result will be fair to the smaller, frequently still profitable players in the business?

“Full Stop”

On the other hand, please remove your chocolate bunny dump bin from Aisle 3. Thank you. Oh, and take those green beach balls with you too.

The Backwoodsman Magazine: A Tale of Single Copy Success

Editor’s Note: An earlier draft of this post incorrectly stated that the single copy sales of The Backswoodsman had climbed from below 40,000 copies to 150,000 copies. The post should have stated that the distribution of the magazine had climbed from below 40,000 copies to 150,000 copies. That has been corrected below. My apologies for the error.

If you’re deep into mainstream New York based slick glossy magazines, there’s not much for you here in The Backwoodsman Magazine. That is, unless you happen to have a life that’s lived in the outdoors. Perhaps you wish to live off the grid, be self sufficient and you want to know how to build a “Zeer Pot Refrigerator”. Or maybe you need to replace the gunwales on your canoe and you think you need to take a refresher course in winter driving.

This thirty-two year old magazine is ably owned and edited by the Richie family of Texas. Compared to the latest Conde glossy, it is anything but cutting edge. In fact until six months ago, the insides of this title were printed on newsprint. The cover images are taken from outdoors art. They feature hunters, fishermen, trappers, Native Americans and scenes from the Old West. While the website is functional, the content is limited. However the e-commerce store is well stocked and easy to use. There are no apps. There is no digital subscription.

The Jan/Feb 2012 Cover of “The Backwoodsman” It’s more mainstream than you think.

Most of the articles we see about print magazine circulation are about how sales are down on the newsstand and sub sides. Print is dead. No one wants to shop at bricks and mortar retail. The only place where most writers (and frankly most of the numbers) will grudgingly concede some sort of growth is in the Book-A-Zine category (aka the Zombies).

But here’s a contradiction to that trend. Seven years ago, this magazine, The Backwoodsman, was distributing less than 40,000 copies onto the newsstand. Nothing very big. The only  saving grace for the title was it’s sell through in the mid forties. It was a candidate for the slow erosion and decline on the newsstand that we’ve seen for many other independently owned, middle of the pack publishers suffer through.

But the exact opposite has happened to this title. This magazine has seen it’s newsstand distribution slowly climb from that sub 40,000 mark to 150,000 copies. All the while, it’s single copy sales efficiency has averaged 45% or better. Sales are up significantly.

How did that happen?

One answer is that the content in this magazine is something that people want. More and more people do want to be outdoors. Either read about it vicariously, or actually live self sufficiently. Many of the articles are written by the readers and it’s easy to see how intimate the magazine is with it’s audience.

However in today’s newsstand world, a hot topic is not necessarily a recipe for growth. It also takes persistance.

Newsstand circulation is handled by Irwin Krimke, a consultant and veteran of the Kable News book division and former national distributor ADS Publishing Services. When he began working with the title, about a quarter of the wholesale marketplace was not drawing the magazine and the former Anderson News had placed it on a highly restricted distribution.

It’s very possible to look at much of today’s newsstand business and think of it like many other “push button” businesses. Communication is mostly through email. People hide behind voice mail walls. Distributions are worked through MagNet or a national distributor’s equivalent and submitted electronically. For most main stream titles, the ID wholesale market may be less than 5% of your overall sales.

In this case, Irwin has steadily worked the the title’s distribution and pushed it’s national distributor, Kable Media to go after increasingly important chain authorizations. It took a long time, many submissions, and the retailers are now responding. Krimke works the wholesalers personally and has expanded the ID market. Retailers and wholesalers are paying attention to this $4.95 publication.

Two simple lessons come to mind when considering this story:

  • Good content needs good editing. We hear the words “content” and “curation” tossed around like so many pennies these days. This publisher shows us that you need to know your readers, deliver articles they want to read in a format that the readers want to read them in. In this case ink on paper seems to do just fine. For others it will be digital. Figure it out. Deliver it.
  • Work your circulation. Know your circulation. Don’t ignore your circulation. It doesn’t matter if it’s print or digital. It doesn’t matter if it’s in house or outsourced. Rule #2 in magazine survival is: “If you don’t understand your circulation, you will perish.”

This publisher has his finger on the pulse of his readers. He’s delivering words they want to read and his audience has responded by growing. He has people on staff who pay attention to the circulation and he listens to them. You can grow on the newsstand. You just need to understand it, work it, follow-up on it, and keep working it.

In my first real publishing job many years ago at Outside Magazine, the subscription director, Anne Mollo-Christensen, lead off a staff meeting once by describing her responsibilities like this: “We test,” she said, “Then we measure, test again, measure, try something new, measure, and test again. We’re always looking for a new way to get to a reader. We never stop trying.”

That was perhaps the best lesson I ever had in circulation and marketing. The Backwoodsman lives it every day.

Anybody else out there have a circulation success story they want to share?