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June 14, 2016

Magazine Media Executives Propose Innovative Disruption at Retail

From left: Rich Alleger, Michael Clinton, Andy Clurman, John Griffin, Buzz Kanter

Top magazine media executives expressed enthusiasm about the continuing value of the retail channel and optimism that the industry can leverage its power more effectively, during a thought-provoking session at the Magazines at Retail conference, moderated by industry veteran John Griffin. Along the way, "disruptive" proposals ranging from innovative to radical were voiced for attendees’ consideration.

Here are some highlights from short presentations given by three panelists prior to the panel discussion.

Hearst’s Clinton Advocates New Marketing Models
Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director, Hearst Magazines, pointed out that print magazine advertising and circulation, including single-copy sales, are still the Hearst’s biggest business drivers, and that print magazines (unlike newspapers) have actually been “remarkably stable” given the overall disruption of media. In fact, he said, magazines are actually delivering a larger audience now than broadcast television.

Marketers of all kinds of products, including magazine advertisers, are all encountering disruption, and neither those businesses or magazines are going to go away; rather, they need to adopt new strategies and models, he stressed.

Clinton said that one big opportunity lies in the magazine industry as a whole using social media and digital platforms more aggressively to promote issues on the newsstand. For instance, he said, Hearst had a “big win”—a double-digit lift in newsstand sales in Barnes & Noble stores—with a recent issue of Elle featuring Beyoncé, as a result of leveraging Facebook Live and promoting the issue on a variety of social media, featuring the issue in B&N’s music department, and other special efforts. 

He also urged the industry to focus on forming proprietary relationships with retailers that leverage technology, like geo-fencing and in-store WiFi/mobile platforms. He noted that Hearst Magazines has just hired a VP, consumer engagement to focus on developing such opportunities. Similarly, he recommended forming more partnerships and alliances with digital and entertainment companies for in-store initiatives to help stimulate magazine sales.

Clinton confirmed that Hearst continues to believe in the importance of new newsstand products, noting that the company is developing a new magazine that could launch early next year.

He also advocated experimenting with a variety of new models. Ideas he noted included using returns as sampling tools; employing demographic data to achieve more targeted, “surgical” retail assortments; and cooperating to market magazines at events and through pop-up newsstands.

“Hearst is investing millions in shifting how we go to market,” Clinton concluded. “Merchants and marketers are starting to talk to each other, and new initiatives are coming.”

AIM’s Clurman: Study Underlines Newsstand’s Continuing Value
Andy Clurman, president and CEO of Active Interest Media (AIM), profiled his enthusiast media company’s growth from five small magazines in 2003 to more than 50 multichannel brands, with a combined audience of more than 39 million, today.

He reported that print magazines account for 22% of AIM’s total revenue, while more than half comes from events. Given that single-copy sales account for about 6% of AIM’s total revenue, he said, he asked AIM’s research director to conduct a study across the brands to assess the value of the newsstand to the company.

The core conclusion: The newsstand “plays an ever-present and important role in shaping magazine brand ecosystems and building audience,” Clurman said.

Newsstand buyers were found to be more engaged in all of AIM’s other platforms, as well. After reading their print magazines, they actively seek out more of the brands’ content through the brands’ social media, videos, newsletters and websites. They were found to go on the magazine brands’ websites significantly more frequently than subscribers, for example.

But at the same time, newsstand buyers’ loyalties remained first and foremost with print. Nearly 88% ranked print newsstand copies as most useful or important for their interests. (The next-closest resource was magazine websites, at 69%). Newsstand buyers also engage sooner: seven in 10 read the content on the same day they buy it.

Newsstand buyers and subscribers were found to be equally connected and committed to niche magazine brands in terms of the longevity of their connections to the brands. Importantly, newsstand buyers and subscribers are also equally inclined to take a variety of actions as a result of print magazines’ influence—including visiting an advertiser’s site to get more information, and visiting a store or dealer location.

TAM’s Kanter Proposes Newsstand ‘Darwinism’
Buzz Kanter, CEO, publisher and editor-in-chief of TAM Communications, which publishes American Iron Magazine and related motorcycle publications, made the most radical proposal. He advocated a form of newsstand “Darwinism” that he described as “disruptive innovation.”

Kanter said that according to MagNet data for the most recent year, 8,600 magazine titles were in distribution in North America. Of those, the top 100 accounted for 51% of total category sales; the top 1,000 accounted for 89.5% of sales; and the other 6,600 accounted for 5.4% of sales.

He asserted that, given that few magazine racks can accommodate even 100 titles, and that displays are already overcrowded, eliminating “even half” of the 8,600 would result in major improvements for the better-selling titles and the distribution channel (although he stressed that he, on his own, is not in a position to propose a specific number of titles to be taken out of mass distribution).

The benefits for the remaining titles, Kanter argued, would include fewer prematures (issues removed from displays before their off-sale dates), which have become a problem for virtually all newsstand titles; improved display; reduced waste copies; and reduced wasting of resources. He argued that wholesalers must find ways to reduce expenses, given newsstand sales trends.

Kanter also challenged wholesalers to be open to creative new ways to display magazines—“even if some of them may fail.” – Karlene Lukovitz


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