Publishing as Contact Sport

indiemags131118_1_560cThe industry is alive and kicking; we just have to learn a few new dance steps says one insider who’s making it happen.

To the industry as a whole, the recent MagNet figures look bad: Overall sales are down by 10%, and newsstand sales dropped by a chunk. But there’s some interesting news in all of this:

The story isn’t that bad for titles that rank 100 to 1,000,” writes John Morthanos in Publishing Executive. “According to the report: ‘In aggregate, the group of titles ranked between 100 and 1,000 actually increased in sales during the fourth quarter 2015 when compared to the sales of titles that fell within the same segment during fourth quarter 2014.’”

Mid-tier titles, the ones that land between 1,000 and 100 in sales rank, did better this year than last. In other words, the big brand mass market continues to lose appeal, while smaller titles are gaining, a trend we’ve been reporting on for some months now.

And let’s not count the idea of actively working the newsstand out of the equation, either. Newsstand sales are down, but there is an awful lot a publisher can do to leverage what’s left of the model.

Morthanos provided a quick analysis of a few of the titles he represents, to show how a smart newsstand strategy can turn into higher-than-average sales.

“How could this happen when the industry apparently is in a free fall? By working with the national distributors, the wholesalers, and the retailers to improve position by implementing ‘old time’ distribution techniques: notifying the distribution channels of local interest stories to increase distribution in specific markets; taking advantage of promotional opportunities that make sense using historical sales figures and competitive information; working on distributions that match the demographics of the audience; and lastly working as a team with the art directors and editors to tweak covers, to make them more of a direct response vehicle as well as an artistic canvas,” explains Morthanos.

In other words, you have to work it. Whether you rely on the traditional newsstand, digital outreach, or more creative distribution techniques, you have to work it to understand your reader and find them. Never overlook the power of a compelling cover, either.

There are some smaller magazines absolutely rocking their niches, thanks to fantastic content, solid editorial direction and creative marketing, even while candy makers take a larger bite out of the front-of-store space.

Morthanos does a nice of explaining that publishing is, and always will be, a contact sport.