The feedback from last week’s cover selections was mostly positive and it was enormous fun hearing from a lot of people who I haven’t been able to connect with over the past few months. We’ve all been so busy patching holes.
In the newsstand world of circulation we find that almost all of the former Source retailers are now accounted for in some way. We’re far enough down the road into a new “reality” that the “conventional wisdom” about what will happen next is for the most part, conventional.
With that in mind, I asked some friends who work in the newsstand, sub and digital circulation worlds to share with me what they would want to find under their Christmas Tree if a Christmas Tree was found in their offices with presents labeled for them under it.
How did they answer? Here’s a look at what a variety of Circulation team members hope to find under an office Christmas Tree (or Holiday Tree or Hanukkah Bush if so inclined).
In the comments below, what would you want to find under your “office” Christmas tree?
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 orOutdoors 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.
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.”
Magazine doctors on staff at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA have determined that the common disease known as “TMB” or Temporary Magazine Blindness has neither a known cause nor cure.
“We pretty much tell staffers to hunker down and deal with it,” said Dr. Tristus Adversus, Dr. Pub., a consultant to the federal disease agency.
“TMB” occurs whenever a magazine publisher walks by a newsstand and fails to see their publication on that rack. This disease is also known to strike magazine advertisers. The magazine is there, but both the publisher and the advertiser not only fail to see the magazine, but they will believe they are seeing large quantities of their competitors magazine on display.
“It’s a very unusual sort of blindness or hysteria that seems to affect only people who work in this industry,” said Dr. Adversus. “We’re not sure of the cause or what we can do to alleviate their suffering.”
It’s the symptoms of “TMB” that have both publishing doctors and the staffs at many magazine publishing companies concerned.
“Oh, the rages that we have seen are quite destructive,” remarked Dr. Adversus as he left a tony midtown Manhattan office where he had just treated several senior magazine executives and their key advertisers. “All of the data, all of the pictures, everything was right there in front of them and they simply could not see it. It made them very upset.”
“All we can really do is help them get through it. I usually prescribe a placebo and a Power Point or two. After awhile, they move onto other things,” he mused. “It’s sort of like chicken soup.”
The CDC has identified other symptoms of “TMB” including but not limited to: Anger, resentment, the firing of staff, the hiring of outsourcing consultants to replace staff. Circulation departments, in particular those now rare and endangered newsstand circulation staffs are reduced to cowering in filing cabinets during an outbreak of “TMB”. The disease can also be transmitted throughout certain portions of magazine staffs. Dr. Adversus has identified smugness in editorial staffs, extreme smugness in digital staffs, and surprisingly, flatulence and shortness of breath in the production staff.
Perhaps the most extreme case of “TMB” recorded in recent years was reported by this blog when the both the publisher and editor of the Eagle, CO based publishing company, Outside the Groove Media, failed to realize they were publishing print magazines for two years.
“I feel kind of silly about that now,” said Peter Westleigh, the publisher of Outside the Groove Media. “But I’m better, now. I only have a few relapses here and there.”
“Yes,” sighed Wendy Ashburnham, Director of Audience Development at Outside the Groove, “He is usually pretty OK with things. But he still can’t seem to find our magazines at his local King Sooper.”
This reporter also contacted the drug manufacturer Astra Zeneca to see if they were working on a drug regime for this disease. The company responded that while they care, they can’t help.