The Newsstand Can’t Catch a Break: Cosmo Gets Blindered

Any day now we could deluged by an onslaught of bad news from the upcoming AAM “SnapShot” report. Until then, we can contemplate the news that one of the nations’ leading newsstand magazines will experience some new retail challenges at two national chains.

Last week WWD Magazine reported that an organization that partnered with Hearst family heir, Victoria Hearst, The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, had won a major victory by convincing Rite Aid Drugs, and Delahaize (The corporate parent of Food Lion and Hannaford Brothers Supermarkets) to put privacy blinders over copies of Cosmopolitan Magazine because minors need to be shielded from Cosmo’s sexual content.

Let’s just pause for a moment and take a look at the August cover of Cosmopolitan.

Pretty darn racy, huh?

Sure….

Cosmopolitan does have a long history of cover lines that push the margins. But let’s look at it this way, going after magazines distributed at a check out rack in a mass market retailer is pretty low hanging fruit. Maybe you can keep your minor child from seeing some “Hot Summer Sex” on a magazines’ cover. But seriously, have you checked your tweens’ Snapchat?

Victoria Hearst, a member of the founding family of the Hearst publishing conglomerate is reported as saying that she wants Cosmopolitan to be sold only to adults and have the cover wrapped like an adult (porn) magazine.

There is so much snark this publishing professional wishes to throw in the general direction of Victoria Hearst. However, unlike Ms. Hearst,  I will resist the temptation to go after such low hanging fruit.

For the record, Cosmo will be placed behind plastic blinders. That should make life slightly more challenging for wholesale merchandisers and add some costs to the single copy sales department over at Hearst. Adult magazines, porn magazines: Penthouse, Hustler, and dozens of other more aggressively sexual titles are often sold in opaque polybags that show only the magazine logo.

The Hearst corporation is quite possibly one of the most successful magazine media companies in the world. They have done some incredible work in maneuvering their  properties through the ever-changing digital and print landscape. Last year, they successfully launched the Dr. Oz magazine, a title that has half a million subscribers and sells over 300,000 copies on the newsstand. In a December 2014 interview with industry analyst Samir Husni, Hearst President David Carey sounded pretty upbeat despite the challenging environment most publishers had just navigated.

Let’s try and be serious for a moment. Or not. Are parents really all that concerned with the “smut” that their children see as they walk through retail stores? Don’t their kids already have their noses in their smart phones? And isn’t it possible that they are seeing a lot more graphic content than “Hot Summer Sex” while they browse their Snapchats, WhatsApp and Instagram pages?

In the second half of 2014, Cosmopolitan reported single copy sales of 632,000 copies with a retail sales value of $15.7 million. That sounds like a lot. Until one considers the fact that in the second half of 2007, Cosmopolitan reported single copy sales of 1.896 million copies at a retail value of $49.7 million.

That should get your attention and put the newsstand crisis in perspective, what?

Moreover, it also might explain why it feels like Rite Aid and Delahaize shrugged and said, “Whatever” when Ms. Hearst’s’ organization demanded they shield children’s delicate sensibilities from smutty cover lines.

Do you think the National Center will target these magazines next?

In the end, this campaign seems like nothing so much as an attention seeking malarkey. Children are much more at risk for injuring themselves while they walk around staring at their smart phone screens. Of course, that would presume they are walking and not sitting on the couch watching a smutty movie on Netflix.

If I learned anything while raising my two daughters, it was that open, honest, frank and age appropriate conversations got all of us much further in life than trying to hide, shield and keep them clear of today’s culture.

How would I suggest a parent handle a Cosmopolitan cover line? Simple: “Those are magazines for grown up women. Look, here’s Discovery Girls.”

That doesn’t seem hard, does it?

For the record, I’d like to point out to the folks at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation that this….

Genesis Magazine - 2011

Genesis Magazine – 2011

…is a pornographic magazine. About the only place you can see one in the wild would be in an adult bookstore and a few convenience stores or traditional newsstands.

However, this…

MILEY CYRUS at Cosmopolitan International Covers, March 2013 Issue

Miley Cyrus tried to save the newsstand back in 2013.

Is a well-respected, multiple award-winning national women’s service magazine produced by a much-admired U.S. corporation.

Other than the fact that they are both magazines, there’s really no similarity.

Local Publisher Solves Distribution Conundrum

Editor’s Note: Periodically, our lucky correspondent, Felix Chartae brings us news from the present, news from the future and news about our favorite publisher, Outside the Groove Media of Eagle, CO.

This week The Foredeck brings you a report about how this plucky publisher solved a newsstand distribution problem plaguing many local magazine publishers.

 

By Felixe Chartae, August 21, 2014

It seemed like a “no brainer” for Outside the Groove Media to purchase the assets of a failing local publisher. “Rocky Mountain Triathlete magazine featured many of the same sporting activities that we covered in our national magazines,” Said Peter Westleigh, CEO of Outside the Groove, “And we bumped up against them repeatedly in sales calls, industry events, even promotional activities. We were  were sure we could fold their editorial and sales teams of all three titles into our office.”

But nothing could prepare Westleigh or his circulation team for the onslaught they were about to face shortly after the first issues of their new acquisitions hit the stands.

“It was almost as if the entire state had contracted TMB,” said Wendy Ashburnham, the Audience Development Director for Outside The Groove.

As reported earlier, TMB, or Temporary Magazine Blindness is a disease that the CDC in Atlanta, GA has described as “The unusual condition when magazine advertisers, sales representatives or publishers and employees of magazine publishers walk up to a newsstand and fail to see their magazine on display for sale on the newsstand even though the magazine is, in fact, on the said newsstand.”

Ashburnham, a long time veteran of magazine circulation, admitted to having little interaction with the newsstand world prior to the acquisition of these three titles. “We have a distributor who talks to the wholesalers and frankly, I could never figure out what language they were speaking. So I got a consultant and told him to handle it and not bug us too much.”

That seemed to work well for the publisher. “Occasionally,” continued Ashburnham, “Peter would call me about not seeing our national titles in his King Sooper, but I could usually get that fixed. Usually I just dropped off a copy or two on my way home.”

“Once we put those locals on sale, Holy Hannah, Katie bar the door!” said CEO Westleigh.

Westleigh and Ashburnham reported that their office was inundated with calls from outraged advertisers who claimed they never saw one single issue of Rocky Mountain Life, Triathlete or Outdoors magazines. These were followed up with panicked emails from sales representatives who claimed the same thing and began to offer “make goods” to the irritated advertisers.

Whenever Westleigh went out to the newsstand, he too could never find any of his new titles.

“It was certainly a worrisome transition,” said Wendy Ashburnham.

The troubled circulator called in her consultant, Laki Patrika to see if he had any ideas.

“I never know what to do in these situations,” admitted Patrika. “Mostly because there are so many possibilities. Sometimes, the advertisers and sales reps are spot on. The magazine is not there.”

“But,” continued the consultant, “Usually it’s because it’s the end of the sales cycle and what hasn’t sold was returned and the new issue isn’t in yet. Or sometimes, the magazine is not authorized for that store, or sometimes it’s authorized for the chain, but not that sized rack in that store. Or sometimes the magazine went on sale late, or early. Or it’s a merchandising problem and we have no real control over that. Or sometimes the magazine was in that store, but nothing sold and eventually it was removed from the distribution,” he said.

“And this is weird,” Patrika continued with his monologue, “Sometimes they just don’t see it, even though it’s right there on the front lip.”

Patrika did not know about the CDC’s “TMB” diagnosis.

“Huh,” said Patrika when this correspondent informed him, “That explains it.”

The solution that Ashburnham and Patrika came up with is both ingenious, probably not helpful to the local wholesalers, but has seemed to solve the problem of irate advertisers.

Peter Westleigh,  Wendy Ashburnham and Laki Patrika of Outside The Groove Media discuss their innovative solution to solving their latest newsstand conundrum. Source: in-this-economy.com)

Peter Westleigh, Wendy Ashburnham and Laki Patrika of Outside The Groove Media discuss their innovative solution to solving their latest newsstand conundrum. Source: in-this-economy.com)

Outside the Groove hired their own merchandisers to follow the local wholesaler merchandisers on the days that the three new magazines go on sale. As soon as the merchandisers put up the magazine, the Outside the Groove merchandisers move the magazines to the front of the rack, then superglue the magazine to the base of the rack so the copies can not be removed. This insures that the copies stay front and center for the life of the on-sale period.

“Of course it kind of stinks on the sales side,” said Patrika, “And then there’s the clean up at the end of the sales cycle.”

This was solved by using a box cutter to slice the magazines out of the rack and get them into the returns bin.

“But the level of complaints from advertisers and sales staff has declined to almost zero,” said Ashburnham, “And that means we can deal with other issues.”

At this point, our interview was interrupted when CEO Westleigh walked in and asked, “Hey Wendy, how come this month’s issue of Rock mag isn’t in my King Sooper.”

“Like that,” said Ashburnham.

 

 

 

 

 

Things Placed In Front of The Magazine Rack Part 7 0f…The Fully Charged Edition

This just in from our US News and World Report correspondent, Mark White, V.P. of Specialty Marketing. I’ll let his words describe what he found:

The good news is that our new Secrets of the Civil War got placement by checkout that we didn’t pay for. The bad news, of course, is that the retailer committed such assault and battery against its highly profitable magazine business that no shoppers will actually see our bookazine. More bad news: The title is not displayed on the store’s mainline.

Lasts just as long, costs less, and delivers even fewer profits…

Encroachment at the front end has long been an issue for the publications that participate in check outs, with the encroachers enjoying the benefits and the “encroachees” left scrambling to defend their turf. “Things Placed In Front of The Magazine Rack” is part of an informal calculation I now consider when budgeting for check out programs.

Although in this particular case, we’d have to argue that Mark’s “encroachee” title didn’t get much benefit because of the dump display of batteries.

I wonder if there is an algorithm that would define this? Could it be turned into a charge back “Marketing Fee”? Who would have to pay the carrying and inventory costs? I’ll have to get the accounting department on that right away.

In the meantime, Mark should know that I found Secrets of the Civil War on the mainline of my neighborhood supermarket and I thought it was a really good read (I bought a copy).

If you have a good example of “Things Placed in front of the Magazine Rack”, please forward them. Checkout, mainline, specialty rack, all are accepted and appreciated.

A Trip to the Newsstand May Help Your (Cover) Image

Two of my favorites: Life Specials vs. Civil War Quarterly.

I often wonder why some art and editorial departments seem so reluctant to talk with their circ teams and ask them what they think about cover images and logos before they send the files off to press. In an old blog post I saw awhile back (And I regret not hanging onto the link) the writer proposed that the single copy “experts” he had been researching, on the whole, really didn’t know what the heck they were talking about when it came to cover selection and images. It was all a crap shoot, he concluded. Fortunately he didn’t imply that we had poor body hygiene or fashion sense.

To a certain extant, that writer had it right. There often is the luck of the draw when it comes to the selection of cover images.

But look at the image above and ask yourself which logo and image stands out, and which does not.

Rocket science? I don’t mean to pick on any particular magazine.

For the record, I’ve often recommended to art and editorial departments that if you don’t want to talk to the person you hired to be your single copy sales expert for any reason under the sun. Be it that you just don’t like that person, you don’t want to be in the same room as them, you’re afraid you’re going to catch cooties, they’re too snarky and sarcastic, you think they’re full of prunes, whatever. Do this one thing:

Print out a high resolution scan of the cover. Go to your nearest newsstand, pop the cover onto the stand in a wide variety of positions.

And then honestly ask yourself if it works.

One half hour out of your work day seems like a small sacrifice.

And for the record, most of the single copy “sales experts” I know are really, really nice people. You should get to know yours.

Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 3 of….(The Down Under Edition)

One of my favorite apps on Twitter is Tweeps Map, a handy little add-on that will show you where on the globe your followers come from. You can imagine my pleasure and surprise to discover that almost 30% of my followers come from outside the US, with more than 8% of  them based in the UK and Ireland. Another 3% are from Australia.

For many years I’ve been a fan of foreign magazines. I particularly love the ones I see from Australia. The Australian Twitter followers most likely came from the interactions I have had promoting my client, Juxtapoz Magazine – a title that sells rather well on that continent.

As you’ve probably guessed, the previous two posts, “Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack” were highly tongue in cheek. Yes, I want retailers to stop cluttering their mainline and checkout displays.

Want a basketball hoop with your Rachel Ray?

However, I thought that my reach would only go only so far.

So my admiration and appreciation goes to our Aussie allies and in particular to Steve Sharman, the proprietor of Carrara Village News on Australia’s Gold Coast for his quick response and continued dedication to moving merchandise.

I received this message from him via Twitter Monday afternoon:

If you’re on Twitter and you want to know how an independent news agent in Australia gets things done, you can follow Cararra Village News @StevieSharman.

He’s also on Facebook. I urge you to “Like” his page: Carrara Village News and check out the eclectic and interesting magazines he features.

Now, any American based retailers who want to step up and follow this retailers lead?