The reason behind the current ailing newsstand model is debatable – cost of single copy vs. subscription prices, ineffective retailing decisions, even the so-called “mobile blinders” phenomenon. Fixing the issue requires a deep dive into the entire consumer channel experience.
In his recent post “The American Newsstand: The Solution, in a Nutshell,” Sami Husni (aka Mr. Magazine) presents a range of opinions from top magazine execs, expressed at the recent MPA/PBAA Retail Marketplace panel. While some blame digital for the downfall, others are finding ways to engage the mobile consumer to boost sales.
Hearst’s president David Carey talked of the “mobile blinder” phenomenon in which potential buyers are too absorbed in their mobile devices to read the magazine covers at the checkout. I’m not sure this is backed by hard research, but certainly gives display designers and cover editors food for thought in how to engage via mobile right at the point of purchase.
Meanwhile Meredith’s chairman and CEO Steve Lacy shared how his company is embracing digital in the store aisles, with in-store mobile users accounting for 25% of total visits to the site from scanning recipes and other info as they shop. And a recent test where the allrecipes logo was added to one of its special interest publications saw the title’s single copy sales lift by 40%.
It comes down to knowing your customer.
“This is a digital consumer, and she’s also very interested in the print that ties this all together. Our greatest corporate lesson in the last year has been to figure out how to connect those dots and help our advertisers sell product to her when she’s right there in the supermarket. Everything that we’re seeing indicates that Gen Y is very engaged in these brands on every platform, from mobile to print,” says Lacy.
While much hand-wringing of the decline of newsstand sales continues, and blame is bounced from one end of the distribution channel to the other, innovative and consumer-centric publishers like Lacy may be on to a solution. As Lacy says, “I see an amazing opportunity to support the consumer – especially the Gen Y consumer that is.”
The American Newsstand as we know it may well be on the way out, but retail sales of magazines by consumers will evolve. It’s up to us as an industry to figure out how to engage those buyers in the channels on which they find us.