Hail the Humble Newsstand, Pandemic Hero

The corner newsstand took a series of near-fatal blows over the last several years as digital disruption upset everything from consumer reading habits to physical distribution. Yet it’s getting some much needed TLC as consumers rediscover the simple pleasure of reading in print.

“Print sales are growing and subscriptions have increased for some titles, including FT Weekend, Monocle and The Spectator. With renewed interest has followed an appreciation of the newsagent,” writes Marianne Giusti in Financial Times. “From the traditional kiosk to the boutique ‘zine store, the newsagent has been identified as an unofficial emergency service, with a unique power to charm.”

Freelance journalist Ayana Byrd, who’s written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Elle among others, believes we are all searching for a deeper experience than what our screens can provide.

“People want more than their phones and cable news can provide – more investigation, more analysis, different visuals,” she explained to Giusti.

MagCulture’s founder Jeremy Leslie sees “a shift during lockdown to people really wanting to read,” and he sees demand at his London shop rising. This kind of upswing is evident in many cities around the world, from Stockholm to Tokyo to Sao Paulo to Beirut, where the popular PaperCup bookshop, badly damaged in the August 4 explosion, is being buoyed by a neighborhood-supported GoFundMe campaign to rebuild.

Cities love their corner kiosks and newsstands, despite the view from many that they are somehow no longer relevant. Talk to the people who live and work in these city neighborhoods and you’ll get an entirely different view.

In Paris, for example, GiustiGiusti reports that buying papers at newsagents is such an ingrained part of everyday life that many kiosks stayed open during the worst of the pandemic to provide that vital link to normalcy during the stay-at-home orders.

“But the joy of the newsstand is perhaps best exhibited by New York’s Casa Magazines, a matchbox-sized West Village spot active since the 1960s and so popular on Instagram (@casamagazinesnyc) that co-owner Mohammed Ahmed has a sign to prompt posers to buy a magazine after snapping selfies in his store,” Giusti writes.

When Casa Magazines was forced to shut down in May, locals raised more than $25,000 to cover rent and wages until the Mayor’s office allowed it reopen in July … proving just how much it meant to them to keep this a part of their community.

If there was any lingering doubt of the value of a neighborhood newsstand, it’s surely been erased by this pandemic. They are vital parts of the urban landscape and deserve our continued respect and gratitude.