BoSacks Speaks Out: Saving Our Precious Newsstand

By Bob Sacks on April 10, 2018
If you know that there is danger in the bushes, that's a good thing, right? Isn't it best to know what confronts you whether in a business or personal situation? In most cases I would say yes. But apparently not the magazine business when it comes to magazine sales figures. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the discomfort of the data and the ripple effect that publicizing that data across to members of our community and associated sectors can have. Bad news generally begets continued negative momentum.

Here is what I'm getting at. I think it is time for an honest discussion about the current state and future possibilities of the American magazine newsstand. As a frequent attendee and speaker to media trade shows across the country, I constantly talk with publishers about our business and many times about the newsstand.

Just yesterday a friend/publisher e-mailed me the following, "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant to most magazine publishers. Big publishers now create covers more with the goal of getting clicks and social-media buzz than selling copies. I can't say that I disagree with them. The newsstand system is a shit show of incompetence and inefficiency." Do you agree with my friend? 

And this is just one of the many skeptical notes I have gotten concerning the remote possibility of publishers saving the once beloved newsstand.

I state today that I am not a skeptic. Well, actually I am, but not on this subject. My first business partner, Andy Kowl, was the first person to explain to me that business abhors a vacuum. If there is room to make a buck, a buck will be made by entrepreneurs finding the holes in any commercial system. In this case, I suggest if the newsstand that we know implodes, someone somehow will fill the vacuum created by the implosion and deliver magazines to a new "newsstand" and make the proverbial buck in the process. But I think that would be, at least in the beginning stages, very inefficient and costly and take years for a rebound in sales and outlets. It can be done, but should it? Can't we fix the "shit show of incompetence and inefficiency"?

With that I mind I reached out to two friends and newsstand experts known industry wide sometimes lovingly as Doctor Doom and Doctor Death. Yes, them. I asked John Harrington and Baird Davis to participate in writing a review of where we are and create an industry dialog about the current situation. The analysis of Dr Doom and Dr Death, as you might expect, isn't exactly encouraging. However, both, in their own way, hold out the possibility, although slim, that the newsstand channel can be saved.

It's, therefore, in that vain that I challenge the industry - either prove the doomsayers correct or show that the slivers of hope expressed by our two doctors has merit.

We need to hear from circulators, circulation consultants, publishers, editors and particularly the presidents of the 5 leading newsstand publishers. I ask you all, is my friend correct that "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant to most magazine publishers"?

In short, is the newsstand system really dying, or does it just seem that way and there is hope in industrial cooperation?

By Bob Sacks| April 10, 2018

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Bob Sacks

Bob Sacks

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