Don’t Blame Digital for the Crumbling Newsstand

newsstand-early-amIt’s tempting to say people just don’t want to read in print. But is digital media really to blame for lower newsstand sales?

Marina Haydn of The Economist is not shy about calling out publishers for their own role in lackluster newsstand sales, saying that “digital alone cannot be blamed for marring print sales.”

“Circulation marketers around the world tend to focus on subscriptions due to their more predictable behaviours—not to mention the fact that newsstand sales on average account for just 7 percent of a magazine’s print circulation, Haydn writes in Folio:. “But the newsstand need not be neglected; there are some simple ways to reinvigorate sales there.”

“Aside from an impactful cover, we have noticed dramatically improved sales among key retailers that work with us to fine-tune their promotions, in addition to firming up their selection and taking initiatives to attract customer footfall, clean up their shelves, and make a nice in-store retail experience. It seems that a simple recipe of positive attention to business partners—and consumers—can help to stop decline from accelerating,” she advises.

The reason, she believes, is that readers simply enjoy print. “From talking to our readers I’ve learned more about the specific allure of print—and it’s something that won’t soon fade, no matter how dusty the newsstand shelves get,” she writes. “A recent survey we conducted contained this insight from a reader: ‘I consume so much information online that [a] print edition is an absolutely essential relief from all that.’”

Other findings from their survey support the idea that print remains a luxury that people crave…and will buy when given the right circumstances:

  • Engagement rates are much higher with print editions than digital.
  • Print readers enjoy significantly less interruptions, making rituals out of the reading that encouraged deeper involvement in the content.
  • Younger readers are more likely to sign up for the print-only subscription, further cementing what we know about Millennials and their preference for print.

She’s not hiding from the fact that newsstand sales have been declining, although she does expect the decline to slow significantly. Rather Haydn advocates a proactive approach to managing sales.

“… those of us who believe in print, whether as a luxury or a necessity, are working to evolve the modern newsstand to better meet the needs of the consumer who is perfectly happy to pay for a valued product in print if it’s readily available and nicely displayed. The newsstand won’t crumble unless we let it.”