It’s not about the single sale; it’s about the subscriptions.
D. Eadward Tree is looking to set the record straight on the modern newsstand.
“People in Magazine Land love to talk about how stupid our industry is, and no part of the business comes in for more ridicule than the shrinking newsstand system,” he writes in Publishing Executive.
Tree insists that critics of current newsstand practices just aren’t seeing the big picture.
“There are many reasons to distribute copies for retail sale, and most have little to do with actually selling copies,” Tree explains. “One of the main benefits of newsstand distribution is finding new subscribers for a magazine, both from newsstand buyers and newsstand browsers.”
And a subscriber, Tree notes, is worth far more to a publisher than the casual reader, justifying those deeply discounted subscription offers.
“A subscriber can be renewed (at higher rates), sold other subscriptions, signed up for newsletters, and lured to events. And her name can be rented to other publishers and marketers. (Shhh, don’t tell.),” he notes in signature Tree style.
Even digital-native publications see the value of this kind of exposure when launching in print, and the value is certainly not from the cover price:
“Newsstand sales are not covering their additional costs. But the cachet from having a magazine and having people see it does wonders for a web site’s credibility and traffic,” Tree explains.
“Seeing a title on sale reassures advertisers that the magazine is widely distributed and puts it on the radar of potential advertisers. That’s why many publishers distribute aggressively to the cities where its advertisers and their agencies are located. Some publishers pay huge fees for distribution at airport shops – more than they could possibly make up from sales – because air travelers tend to be so affluent and influential.”
The newsstand model is in the midst of radical change, there’s no doubt about that. How publishers choose to participate and leverage that model is in flux as well, with some asserting there is a glut of titles at the newsstand (we disagree). Tree helps make sense of the change and how to make the most of the system; his full article is definitely worth the read.