This Just In….Breaking News in Print

Newsstand sales in the US are down; this is a fact. So what are publishers doing to combat the losses?

“As magazine sales shrink, publishers including Time Inc.—which owns brands like Time, Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, and People—find themselves competing not just against each other, but against the other items vying for your attention at newsstands,” writes Ashley Rodriguez in Quartz.

The publisher has done significant research to understand the modern newsstand buyer and how they differ from magazine subscribers.

“[Time Inc.’s retail head Drew Wintemberg] said that retail customers are different from subscribers, who are generally loyal to specific titles. Newsstand shoppers, on the other hand, are drawn to topics and individual issues,” Rodriguez writes.

Part of the solution, according to Time, is to better leverage breaking news in print, notoriously difficult but not impossible for magazines that work days or weeks in the future.

“With the Brad and Angelina split, for People, we already had an issue on newsstands and we went to press on a Thursday, because that was a breaking story,” said Wintemberg, referring to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s celebrity divorce. “We’re asking ourselves how we can capitalize on breaking news both from an editorial perspective and from a speed to market perspective.”

It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not cheap, but for brands like Time it’s a way to position themselves as a highly relevant news source at the newsstand, offering information readers have yet to hear about in any depth outside of the social feeds.

“We have to understand where we think the consumer might be, from a behavior perspective, two to four years from now,” said Wintemberg. “We’re evaluating a lot of what others are doing outside the magazine space to connect with shoppers at various retailers, and looking to test those concepts for our category and for our clients.”

Can magazines help recapture print’s critical role in breaking news and use that relevance to boost newsstand sales? We think they’ve got a good shot.