Monday, August 8, 2011

Magazine Newsstand Sales Down in 2011

Coming as no surprise, newsstand sales of magazines are down this year. According to the article, the first half saw an 11% decrease in single issue sales while subscription sales appears to be flat. But should this newsstand decrease be a surprise to anyone. It doesn't take much of a crystal ball to see that bookstores like Borders that sell magazines aren't doing well. With businesses cutting costs to manage profit margins, business travel has declined. So too has personal air travel given the high costs to fly. Few stories, with the exception of the royal wedding, are notable enough to push readers to buy a magazine, especially when these same stories are accessible on the web.

We are seeing changing readership patterns. The challenge and the opportunity lies in the content and its exclusivity behind walled gardens. That means that a story on Justin Bieber may seem important but it is most likely covered numerous times. We need to make the writers behind the story more notable so that it is equally important who is telling the story that makes it an important read. And changes in distribution platforms need to be embraced as well. The web opens up opportunities for single and subscription sales. It also enables a multi-media approach to storytelling with better pictures and videos to accompany the words. Add to that the promise of always up-to-date so that every story that is time sensitive has the most accurate facts and information to share.

We can't rely on newsstands to return to former days of glory. New marketing partnerships need to be enhanced. A couple examples: Bring your Nook to Barnes and Noble and get a special deal on an in store download of an issue. Or bring your iPad into an Apple store and get special digital content from a magazine. Or bring your Kindle to a Hudson Newsstand at the airport and download a code for a discount on your next Amazon purchase with any in-store digital purchase. Hopefully integrated marketing strategies can lengthen the life of the newsstand while embracing single issue sales.

In these turbulent times, with a slow economy, a downturn in travel, bankruptcy of our bookstore chains, and a transition from print to digital content, newsstand sales may not ever fully recover. Their impact may need to transition to a marketing approach to encourage a digital sale rather than to push a magazine sale into the shopping cart.